A Likelihood Search for Very High-energy Gamma-ray Bursts with the High Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory

Open Access
Woodle, Kathryne Sparks
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 03, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Tyce De Young, Dissertation Advisor
  • Miguel Mostafa, Dissertation Advisor
  • Derek Brindley Fox, Committee Member
  • Irina Mocioiu, Committee Member
  • gamma ray
  • gamma-ray burst
  • HAWC
  • water Cherenkov detector
Gamma-Ray bursts (GRBs) are extremely powerful transient events that occur at cosmological distances. Observations of energy spectra of GRBs can provide information about the intervening space between the burst and Earth as well as about the source itself. GRBs have been observed up to nearly 100 GeV by satellite instruments; however, ground-based detectors are needed to provide enough exposure and statistics to determine the behavior of GRBs at those energies. The High Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory (HAWC) is a second-generation extensive air shower detector that primarily observes very high-energy (VHE) photons, where VHE is defined as hundreds of GeV to hundreds of TeV. HAWC is built near the peak of Sierra Negra in Mexico at an altitude of 4100m. The high altitude allows the detector to observe air showers when more information is available for reconstruction. Due to its wide field of view (~2 sr) and high duty cycle (>90%), the HAWC observatory is sensitive to gamma rays in the sub-TeV to TeV energy range and can constrain the shape and cutoff of high-energy GRB spectra, especially in conjunction with observations from other detectors such as the Fermi LAT satellite. We present a likelihood-based search for VHE emission from the Fermi LAT GRBs that occurred in the field of view of HAWC during the last two years of its construction. Of the five bursts analyzed, no significant detections were observed; upper limits have been placed for each of the bursts. With less than 1/3 of the array active, the HAWC observatory limits for GRB 130702A, which is at a close redshift of z = 0.145, reach comparable sensitivity to lower energy instruments and are not limited by the EBL. With the array complete in March 2015, the sensitivity of HAWC is now greatly enhanced compared to the data analyzed in this dissertation. The future for a VHE GRB detetion by the HAWC observatory is bright.