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The Activity of Black Hole Imprints on the Internal Plateau and the Subsequent Sharp Decay

Tian-Ci ZhengDa-Ming WeiYun WangHao ZhouLong Li
Jan 2024
A stellar-mass black hole (BH) or a millisecond magnetar is believed to be born as the central engine of Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). The presence of plateaus in the X-ray extended emission or afterglow of GRBs is widely accepted as an indicator of magnetar central engine, particularly those with a sharp decay (faster than $t^{-3}$), so-called internal plateau. However, an alternative model, by taking the evolution of the magnetic flux at the BH horizon into account, suggests that an internal plateau can also arise from a Blandford-Znajek (BZ) mechanism powered jet (hereafter referred to as the BZ jet). In this study, we propose that a precessional BZ jet would manifest a Quasi-Periodic Oscillation (QPO) signature on the internal plateau and the subsequent sharp decay. Such lightcurves cannot be readily explained by the activity of a short-lived, supermassive magnetar, thus favoring a Kerr BH as the central engine. The X-ray afterglow of GRB 050904, comprising nine flares, is characterized by a QPO-modulated plateau and sharp decay, which can be well reproduced by a precessional BZ jet model. Therefore, one potential clue for distinguishing between these two engines lies in whether QPO signature throughout the entire plateau and the subsequent sharp decay, as the magnetar scenario suggests a collapse at the end of the plateau.
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