High-energy emission and recent afterglow studies of gamma-ray bursts
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Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) are powerful explosions that emit most of their energy, as their name suggests, in gamma-rays of typical energies of about 1 MeV. This emission lasts for about two minutes or less and it is called the prompt emission. The isotropic energy radiated in GRBs is equivalent to the energy that the Sun will radiate in its entire lifetime. After decades of studying this cosmological phenomenon, we have come to learn that it involves a collimated and relativistic jet. Also, we know that they radiate energy in the X-ray, optical and radio bands for days, weeks and years, respectively, which is called the afterglow. Recently, NASA's Fermi Satellite was launched and, in addition to MeV photons, it detected GeV photons from these astrophysical sources. We show that these GeV photons are produced when the GRB jet interacts with the medium that surrounds it: the external forward shock model. We arrive at this conclusion not only by studying the GeV emission, but also by studying the afterglow observations (Chapter 2). We corroborate this model by studying the electron acceleration in the external forward shock model and find that electrons can radiate at the maximum observed energy of ~ 10 GeV (Chapter 3). We also provide an extensive analysis of the most recent afterglow observations of GRB 090902B within the same framework of an external forward shock origin. We find that the data for this burst requires a small deviation from the traditionally used power-law electron energy distribution, however, our previous results remain unchanged (Chapter 4). To conclude, we use the end of the prompt emission phase, which exhibits a steep X-ray temporal decay, to constrain the behavior of the central engine responsible for launching the relativistic jet (Chapter 5).