During the first few moments after the Big Bang, the enormous temperatures and pressures allow simple fluctuations in the density of matter to form localized regions that are sufficiently dense for the creation of primordial black holes. At the present 13.7 billion year age of the universe, primordial black holes that are less than approximately half a billion metric tons in mass would have already evaporated via the emission of Hawking radiation. The amount of Hawking radiation emitted by evaporating black holes depends on the mass of the black hole and small black holes are expected to emit vastly more Hawking radiation than more massive ones. In the final fraction of a second before a black hole completely evaporates, it emits such an incredible amount of energy that it could well serve as a progenitor for a gamma ray burst.
Gamma ray bursts are the most luminous electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe and they are so luminous that they can easily be detected across distance of billions of light years. Gamma ray bursts are generally divided into three classes according to their durations: long gamma ray bursts (LGRBs) have durations of over 2 seconds, short gamma ray bursts (SGRBs) have durations of between 0.1 to 2 seconds and very short gamma ray bursts (VSGRBs) have durations of less than 0.1 seconds. A recent paper by David B. Cline et al. (2011) entitled “Does Very Short Gamma Ray Bursts originate from Primordial Black Holes?” presents the case that the evaporation of primordial black holes could account for the detection of very short duration gamma ray bursts.
LGRBs are generally associated with the collapse of massive stars while SGRBs are generally associated with the mergers of compact objects in binary systems (neutron star - neutron star mergers or black hole - neutron star mergers). As the most fleeting of gamma ray bursts, VSGRBs form a distinct group with durations of less than 0.1 seconds. NASA’s Swift satellite is a multi-wavelength space-based observatory dedicated to the study of gamma-ray bursts. In Swift’s VSGRB sample, 25 percent of the bursts have afterglows. This is in remarkable contrast with Swift’s SGRB sample whereby 78 percent of the bursts have afterglows. The afterglows can be attributed to post merger processes of compact objects in binary systems. In this case, 25 percent of the VSGRB sample can form the tail of the basic SGRB distribution. This leaves 75 percent of the VSGRB sample that do not have afterglows consistent with the evaporation of primordial black holes.
Detections of VSGRBs have shown that they have an anisotropic distribution which seem to point towards a local origin within the Milky Way galaxy. The rest of the gamma ray bursts show no anisotropy in their distribution and this suggests that they are of cosmological origin, occurring well beyond the Milky Way galaxy. All these suggest that VSGRBs are indeed a new class of gamma ray burst and the majority of the cases for VSGRBs can be the result of the explosive evaporation of primordial black holes. If the majority of VSGRBs are indeed the demise of primordial black holes, then knowing the spatial distribution of these exotic objects will help cosmologists place constraints on the spectrum of density fluctuations in the early universe.