A Galactic short gamma-ray burst as cause for the 14C peak in AD 774/5
In the last 3000 yr, one significant and rapid increase in the concentration of 14C in tree rings was observed; it corresponds to a γ-ray energy input of 7 × 1024 erg at Earth within up to one year in AD 774/5. A normal supernova and a solar or stellar flare are unlikely as cause, so that the source remained unknown. Here, we show that a short gamma-ray burst (GRB) in our Galaxy is consistent with all observables: such an event is sufficiently short and provides the necessary energy in the relevant spectral range of γ-rays. Its spectral hardness is consistent with the differential production rates of 14C and 10Be as observed. The absence of reports about a historic sighting of a supernova in AD 774/5 or a present-day supernova remnant is also consistent with a short GRB. We estimate the distance towards this short GRB to be ∼1–4 kpc – sufficiently far away, so that no extinction event on Earth was triggered. This is the first evidence for a short GRB in our Galaxy.