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The galactic environment of gamma-ray bursts can provide good evidence about the nature of the progenitor system, with two old arguments implying that the burst host galaxies are significantly subluminous. New data and new analysis have now reversed this picture: (1) Even though the first two known host galaxies are indeed greatly subluminous, the next eight hosts have absolute magnitudes typical for a population of field galaxies. A detailed analysis of the 16 known hosts (10 with redshifts) shows them to be consistent with a Schlechter luminosity function with R* = -21.8 ± 1.0, as expected for normal galaxies. (2) Bright bursts from the Interplanetary Network are typically 18 times brighter than the faint bursts with redshifts; however, the bright bursts do not have galaxies inside their error boxes to limits deeper than expected based on the luminosities for the two samples being identical. A new solution to this dilemma is that a broad burst luminosity function along with a burst number density varying as the star formation rate will require the average luminosity of the bright sample (>6 × 1058 photons s-1 or >1.7 × 1052 ergs s-1) to be much greater than the average luminosity of the faint sample (∼1058 photons s-1 or ∼3 × 1051 ergs s-1). This places the bright bursts at distances for which host galaxies with a normal luminosity will not violate the observed limits. In conclusion, all current evidence points to gamma-ray burst host galaxies being normal in luminosity.

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Astrophysical Journal