Gamma-ray burst counterparts: Optical data

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The surest solution of the gamma-ray burst (GRB) mystery is to find an unambiguous low-energy quiescent counterpart. To this end, we have intensively searched within the smallest GRB error boxes for any counterpart candidates. This paper reports on 255 hr of exposure with ground-based telescopes since 1981. We report our results in the U, B, V, R, I, J, H, and K bands. We find the usual array of mildly unusual sources in the boxes, but none is sufficiently unusual to suggest a causal connection. We find that the smallest boxes are empty to fairly deep magnitudes. This fact can be of significance since virtually all cosmological models place bright bursters inside normal host galaxies at moderate distances. To allow for quantitative evaluation of the predictions of these models, we have compiled a list of limits on the brighest galaxy inside each of the 26 regions in various bands. This list was compiled from our own results as well as from the published literature. The limits on host galaxy luminosities from these data are substantially more restrictive than the limits from recent optical transients because the bursts we report on are much brighter than the bursts with optical transients.

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Astrophysical Journal, Supplement Series

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