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The optical transient of the faint gamma-ray burst GRB 990308 was detected by the QUEST camera on the Venezuelan 1 m Schmidt telescope starting 3.28 hr after the burst. Our photometry gives V= 18.32 ± 0.07, R = 18.14 ± 0.06, B = 18.65 ± 0.23, and R = 18.22 ± 0.05 for times ranging from 3.28 to 3.47 hr after the burst. The colors correspond to a spectral slope of close to fv ∝ v1/3. Within the standard synchrotron fireball model, this requires that the external medium be less dense than 104 cm-3, the electrons contain more than 20% of the shock energy, and the magnetic field energy be less than 24% of the energy in the electrons for normal interstellar or circumstellar densities. We also report upper limits of V > 12.0 at 132 s (with LOTIS), V > 13.4 from 132 to 1029 s (with LOTIS), V > 15.3 at 28.2 minutes (with Super-LOTIS), and a 8.5 GHz flux of less than 114 μJy at 110 days (with the Very Large Array). Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO 3.5 m and Keck 10 m telescopes reveal this location to be empty of any host galaxy to R > 25.7 and K > 23.3. The lack of a host galaxy likely implies that it is either substantially subluminous or more distant than a redshift of ∼1.2.

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Astrophysical Journal