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ECLAIRs: A microsatellite for the prompt optical and X-ray emission of Gamma-Ray Bursts


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      The prompt gamma-ray emission of Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) is currently interpreted in terms of radiation from electrons accelerated in internal shocks in a relativistic fireball. On the other hand, the origin of the prompt (and early afterglow) optical and X-ray emission is still debated, mostly because very few data exist for comparison with theoretical predictions. It is however commonly agreed that this emission hides important clues on the GRB physics and can be used to constrain the fireball parameters, the acceleration and emission processes and to probe the surroundings of the GRBs. ECLAIRs is a microsatellite devoted to the observation of the prompt optical and X-ray emission of GRBs. For about 150 GRBs/yr, independent of their duration, ECLAIRs will provide high time resolution high sensitivity spectral coverage from a few eV up to ~50 keV and localization to ~ 5'' in near real time. This capability is achieved by combining wide field optical and X-ray cameras sharing a common field of view (>~ 2.2 steradians) with the coded-mask imaging telescopes providing the triggers and the coarse localizations of the bursts. Given the delays to start ground-based observations in response to a GRB trigger, ECLAIRs is unique in its ability to observe the early phases (the first ~20 sec) of all GRBs at optical wavelengths. Furthermore, with its mode of operation, ECLAIRs will enable to search for optical and X-ray precursors expected from theoretical grounds. Finally ECLAIRsis proposed to operate simultaneously with GLAST on a similar orbit. This combination will both provide unprecedented spectral coverage from a few eV up to ~200 GeV for ~100 GRBs/yr, as well as accurate localization of the GLAST GRBs to enable follow-up studies.

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      11 September 2001
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      A shorter version of this paper will appear in the proceedings SF2A of Journees de l'Astrophysique Francaise. EDP Sciences publisher. 15 pages. 2 figures, the first one in color


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