GRB 080503 Late Afterglow Re-brightening: Signature of a Magnetar-powered Merger-nova

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GRB 080503 is a short gamma-ray burst (GRB) detected by Swift and has been classified as a GRB originating from a compact star merger. The soft extended emission and the simultaneous late re-brightening in both the X-ray and optical afterglow light curves raise interesting questions regarding its physical origin. We show that the broadband data of GRB 080503 can be well explained within the framework of the double neutron star merger model, provided that the merger remnant is a rapidly rotating massive neutron star with an extremely high magnetic field (i.e., a millisecond magnetar). We show that the late optical re-brightening is consistent with the emission from a magnetar-powered "merger-nova." This adds one more case to the growing sample of merger-novae associated with short GRBs. The soft extended emission and the late X-ray excess emission are well connected through a magnetar dipole spin-down luminosity evolution function, suggesting that direct magnetic dissipation is the mechanism to produce these X-rays. The X-ray emission initially leaks from a hole in the merger ejecta pierced by the short GRB jet. The hole subsequently closes after the magnetar spins down and the magnetic pressure drops below ram pressure. The X-ray photons are then trapped behind the merger-nova ejecta until the ejecta becomes optically thin at a later time. This explains the essentially simultaneous re-brightening in both the optical and X-ray light curves. Within this model, future gravitational-wave sources could be associated with a bright X-ray counterpart along with the merger-nova, even if the short GRB jet beams away from Earth.


Astrophysics and Astronomy