It is known that the GRB equivalent hydrogen column density (NHX) changes with redshift and that, typically, NHX is greater than the GRB host neutral hydrogen column density. We have compiled a large sample of data for GRB NHX and metallicity [X/H]. The main aims of this paper are to generate improved NHX for our sample by using actual metallicities, dust corrected where available for detections, and for the remaining GRB, a more realistic average intrinsic metallicity using a standard adjustment from solar. Then, by approximating the GRB host intrinsic hydrogen column density using the measured neutral column (NHI, IC) adjusted for the ionization fraction, we isolate a more accurate estimate for the intergalactic medium (IGM) contribution. The GRB sample mean metallicity is = −1.17 ± 0.09 rms (or 0.07 ± 0.05 Z/Zsol) from a sample of 36 GRB with a redshift 1.76 ≤ z ≤ 5.91, substantially lower than the assumption of solar metallicity used as standard for many fitted NHX. Lower GRB host mean metallicity results in increased estimated NHX with the correction scaling with redshift as Δlog (NHX cm−2) = (0.59 ± 0.04)log(1 + z) + 0.18 ± 0.02. Of the 128 GRB with data for both NHX and NHI, IC in our sample, only six have NHI, IC > NHX when revised for realistic metallicity, compared to 32 when solar metallicity is assumed. The lower envelope of the revised NHX – NHI, IC, plotted against redshift can be fit by log(NHX – NHI, IC cm−2) = 20.3 + 2.4 log(1 + z). This is taken to be an estimate for the maximum IGM hydrogen column density as a function of redshift. Using this approach, we estimate an upper limit to the hydrogen density at redshift zero (n0) to be consistent with n0 = 0.17 × 10−7cm−3.
Morris, S. L., & Dalton, T. (2020). Using realistic host galaxy metallicities to improve the GRB X-ray equivalent total hydrogen column density and constrain the intergalactic medium density. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 495(2), 2342-2353. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa1321