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Advances in Astronomy
Volume 2015, Article ID 907321, 37 pages
Review Article

Physics of Gamma-Ray Bursts Prompt Emission

Physics Department, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Received 5 December 2014; Accepted 30 March 2015

Academic Editor: Dean Hines

Copyright © 2015 Asaf Pe’er. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In recent years, our understanding of gamma-ray bursts (GRB) prompt emission has been revolutionized, due to a combination of new instruments, new analysis methods, and novel ideas. In this review, I describe the most recent observational results and current theoretical interpretation. Observationally, a major development is the rise of time resolved spectral analysis. These led to (I) identification of a distinguished high energy component, with GeV photons often seen at a delay and (II) firm evidence for the existence of a photospheric (thermal) component in a large number of bursts. These results triggered many theoretical efforts aimed at understanding the physical conditions in the inner jet regions. I highlight some areas of active theoretical research. These include (I) understanding the role played by magnetic fields in shaping the dynamics of GRB outflow and spectra; (II) understanding the microphysics of kinetic and magnetic energy transfer, namely, accelerating particle to high energies in both shock waves and magnetic reconnection layers; (III) understanding how subphotospheric energy dissipation broadens the “Planck” spectrum; and (IV) geometrical light aberration effects. I highlight some of these efforts and point towards gaps that still exist in our knowledge as well as promising directions for the future.