GRB 010921: Discovery of the First HETE Afterglow


We report the discovery of the optical and radio afterglow of GRB 010921, the first gamma-ray burst afterglow to be found from a localization by the High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) satellite. We present optical spectroscopy of the host galaxy which we find to be a dusty and apparently normal star-forming galaxy at z = 0.451. The unusually steep optical spectral slope of the afterglow can be explained by heavy extinction, A_V > 0.5 mag, along the line of sight to the GRB. Dust with similar A_V for the the host galaxy as a whole appears to be required by the measurement of a Balmer decrement in the spectrum of the host galaxy. Thanks to the low redshift, continued observations of the afterglow will enable the strongest constraints, to date, on the existence of a possible underlying supernova.