When massive stars exhaust their fuel, they collapse and often produce the extraordinarily bright explosions known as core-collapse supernovae. On occasion, this stellar collapse also powers an even more brilliant relativistic explosion known as a long-duration γ-ray burst. One would then expect that these long γ-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae should be found in similar galactic environments. Here we show that this expectation is wrong. We find that the γ-ray bursts are far more concentrated in the very brightest regions of their host galaxies than are the core-collapse supernovae. Furthermore, the host galaxies of the long γ-ray bursts are significantly fainter and more irregular than the hosts of the core-collapse supernovae. Together these results suggest that long-duration γ-ray bursts are associated with the most extremely massive stars and may be restricted to galaxies of limited chemical evolution. Our results directly imply that long γ-ray bursts are relatively rare in galaxies such as our own Milky Way.
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