Abstract The brightest optical flash from a γ-ray burst (GRB) was, briefly, a naked-eye object. Several other GRBs have produced optical transients only slightly fainter. We argue that, based upon the recently accumulated data from hundreds of GRB transients, many such optical events should have been visible to the unaided eye in the course of human history. The most likely repositories of such observations are historical records from the Orient, and we have located and discuss a number of candidates. We also consider the value of such observations, should any very likely ones be uncovered, to modern astrophysics.
Keywords γ-rays: bursts — optical transients — historical records
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