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Title: The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. III. Optical and UV Spectra of a Blue Kilonova from Fast Polar Ejecta

Abstract

Here, we present optical and ultraviolet spectra of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave (GW) source, the binary neutron star merger GW170817. Spectra were obtained nightly between 1.5 and 9.5 days post-merger, using the SOAR and Magellan telescopes; the UV spectrum was obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope at 5.5 days. Our data reveal a rapidly-fading blue component ($$T\approx5500$$ K at 1.5 days) that quickly reddens; spectra later than $$\gtrsim 4.5$$ days peak beyond the optical regime. The spectra are mostly featureless, although we identify a possible weak emission line at $$\sim 7900$$ Å at $$t\lesssim 4.5$$ days. The colours, rapid evolution and featureless spectrum are consistent with a "blue" kilonova from polar ejecta comprised mainly of light $r$-process nuclei with atomic mass number $$A\lesssim 140$$. This indicates a sight-line within $$\theta_{\rm obs}\lesssim 45^{\circ}$$ of the orbital axis. Comparison to models suggests $$\sim0.03$$ M$$_\odot$$ of blue ejecta, with a velocity of $$\sim 0.3c$$. The required lanthanide fraction is $$\sim 10^{-4}$$, but this drops to $$<10^{-5}$$ in the outermost ejecta. The large velocities point to a dynamical origin, rather than a disk wind, for this blue component, suggesting that both binary constituents are neutron stars (as opposed to a binary consisting of a neutron star and a black hole). For dynamical ejecta, the high mass favors a small neutron star radius of $$\lesssim 12$$ km. This mass also supports the idea that neutron star mergers are a major contributor to $r$-process nucleosynthesis.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5]; ORCiD logo [1];  [1];  [6];  [1];  [1]; ORCiD logo [7]; ORCiD logo [7]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [8];  [9];  [10]; ORCiD logo [11] more »; ORCiD logo [12];  [13]; ORCiD logo [13];  [13];  [12];  [14]; ORCiD logo [15];  [16];  [17];  [18]; ORCiD logo [19];  [10]; ORCiD logo [20]; ORCiD logo [9] « less
  1. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA (United States)
  2. Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States); Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  3. Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States)
  4. Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope, La Serena (Chile)
  5. National Optical Astronomy Observatory, La Serena (Chile)
  6. Ohio Univ., Athens, OH (United States)
  7. Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL (United States)
  8. Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
  9. Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI (United States)
  10. Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (United States)
  11. Syracuse Univ., Syracuse, NY (United States)
  12. Univ. of Chicago, Chicago, IL (United States)
  13. Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC (United States)
  14. Univ. Navional de La Plata, La Plata (Argentina); Instituto de Astrofisica de La Plata, La Plata (Argentina); Univ. degli Studi di Torino, Torino (Italy); Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Torino (Italy); INAF-Istituto di Astrofisico Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica di Bologna, Bologna (Italy)
  15. Univ. degli Studi di Torino, Torino (Italy); Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Torino (Italy); INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Torino, Pino Torinese (Italy)
  16. Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ (United States)
  17. Univ. Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil); Univ. of Warwick, Coventry (United Kingdom)
  18. Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD (United States); Johns Hopkins Univ., Baltimore, MD (United States)
  19. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA (United States); Univ. Roma Tre, Roma (Italy)
  20. Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States); Brandeis Univ., Waltham, MA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), High Energy Physics (HEP)
OSTI Identifier:
1409351
Report Number(s):
arXiv:1710.05456; FERMILAB-PUB-17-475-AE-CD
Journal ID: ISSN 2041-8213; 1630796
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC02-07CH11359
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal. Letters
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 848; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-8213
Publisher:
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS; binaries: close; gravitational waves; nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances; stars: neutron

Citation Formats

Nicholl, Matt, Berger, E., Kasen, D., Metzger, B. D., Elias, J., Briceno, C., Alexander, K. D., Blanchard, P. K., Chornock, R., Cowperthwaite, P. S., Eftekhari, T., Fong, W., Margutti, R., Villar, V. A., Williams, P. K. G., Brown, W., Annis, J., Bahramian, A., Brout, D., Brown, D. A., Chen, H. -Y., Clemens, J. C., Dennihy, E., Dunlap, B., Holz, D. E., Marchesini, E., Massaro, F., Moskowitz, N., Pelisoli, I., Rest, A., Ricci, F., Sako, M., Soares-Santos, M., and Strader, J. The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. III. Optical and UV Spectra of a Blue Kilonova from Fast Polar Ejecta. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aa9029.
Nicholl, Matt, Berger, E., Kasen, D., Metzger, B. D., Elias, J., Briceno, C., Alexander, K. D., Blanchard, P. K., Chornock, R., Cowperthwaite, P. S., Eftekhari, T., Fong, W., Margutti, R., Villar, V. A., Williams, P. K. G., Brown, W., Annis, J., Bahramian, A., Brout, D., Brown, D. A., Chen, H. -Y., Clemens, J. C., Dennihy, E., Dunlap, B., Holz, D. E., Marchesini, E., Massaro, F., Moskowitz, N., Pelisoli, I., Rest, A., Ricci, F., Sako, M., Soares-Santos, M., & Strader, J. The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. III. Optical and UV Spectra of a Blue Kilonova from Fast Polar Ejecta. United States. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aa9029
Nicholl, Matt, Berger, E., Kasen, D., Metzger, B. D., Elias, J., Briceno, C., Alexander, K. D., Blanchard, P. K., Chornock, R., Cowperthwaite, P. S., Eftekhari, T., Fong, W., Margutti, R., Villar, V. A., Williams, P. K. G., Brown, W., Annis, J., Bahramian, A., Brout, D., Brown, D. A., Chen, H. -Y., Clemens, J. C., Dennihy, E., Dunlap, B., Holz, D. E., Marchesini, E., Massaro, F., Moskowitz, N., Pelisoli, I., Rest, A., Ricci, F., Sako, M., Soares-Santos, M., and Strader, J. Mon . "The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. III. Optical and UV Spectra of a Blue Kilonova from Fast Polar Ejecta". United States. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aa9029. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1409351.
@article{osti_1409351,
title = {The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. III. Optical and UV Spectra of a Blue Kilonova from Fast Polar Ejecta},
author = {Nicholl, Matt and Berger, E. and Kasen, D. and Metzger, B. D. and Elias, J. and Briceno, C. and Alexander, K. D. and Blanchard, P. K. and Chornock, R. and Cowperthwaite, P. S. and Eftekhari, T. and Fong, W. and Margutti, R. and Villar, V. A. and Williams, P. K. G. and Brown, W. and Annis, J. and Bahramian, A. and Brout, D. and Brown, D. A. and Chen, H. -Y. and Clemens, J. C. and Dennihy, E. and Dunlap, B. and Holz, D. E. and Marchesini, E. and Massaro, F. and Moskowitz, N. and Pelisoli, I. and Rest, A. and Ricci, F. and Sako, M. and Soares-Santos, M. and Strader, J.},
abstractNote = {Here, we present optical and ultraviolet spectra of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave (GW) source, the binary neutron star merger GW170817. Spectra were obtained nightly between 1.5 and 9.5 days post-merger, using the SOAR and Magellan telescopes; the UV spectrum was obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope at 5.5 days. Our data reveal a rapidly-fading blue component ($T\approx5500$ K at 1.5 days) that quickly reddens; spectra later than $\gtrsim 4.5$ days peak beyond the optical regime. The spectra are mostly featureless, although we identify a possible weak emission line at $\sim 7900$ Å at $t\lesssim 4.5$ days. The colours, rapid evolution and featureless spectrum are consistent with a "blue" kilonova from polar ejecta comprised mainly of light $r$-process nuclei with atomic mass number $A\lesssim 140$. This indicates a sight-line within $\theta_{\rm obs}\lesssim 45^{\circ}$ of the orbital axis. Comparison to models suggests $\sim0.03$ M$_\odot$ of blue ejecta, with a velocity of $\sim 0.3c$. The required lanthanide fraction is $\sim 10^{-4}$, but this drops to $<10^{-5}$ in the outermost ejecta. The large velocities point to a dynamical origin, rather than a disk wind, for this blue component, suggesting that both binary constituents are neutron stars (as opposed to a binary consisting of a neutron star and a black hole). For dynamical ejecta, the high mass favors a small neutron star radius of $\lesssim 12$ km. This mass also supports the idea that neutron star mergers are a major contributor to $r$-process nucleosynthesis.},
doi = {10.3847/2041-8213/aa9029},
journal = {The Astrophysical Journal. Letters},
number = 2,
volume = 848,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {10}
}

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    journal, April 2018


    Properties of the Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817
    journal, January 2019


    GW170817 --the first observed neutron star merger and its kilonova: Implications for the astrophysical site of the r-process
    journal, November 2019


    Neutron stars in frames of R2-gravity and gravitational waves
    journal, January 2019

    • Astashenok, Artyom V.; Baigashov, Alexey S.; Lapin, Sergey A.
    • International Journal of Geometric Methods in Modern Physics, Vol. 16, Issue 01
    • DOI: 10.1142/s021988781950004x

    A Magnetar Origin for the Kilonova Ejecta in GW170817
    journal, March 2018

    • Metzger, Brian D.; Thompson, Todd A.; Quataert, Eliot
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 856, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aab095

    Three-dimensional GRMHD Simulations of Neutrino-cooled Accretion Disks from Neutron Star Mergers
    journal, May 2018


    Mass Ejection from the Remnant of a Binary Neutron Star Merger: Viscous-radiation Hydrodynamics Study
    journal, June 2018

    • Fujibayashi, Sho; Kiuchi, Kenta; Nishimura, Nobuya
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 860, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aabafd

    The Allowed Parameter Space of a Long-lived Neutron Star as the Merger Remnant of GW170817
    journal, June 2018


    Is the Macronova in GW170817 Powered by the Central Engine?
    journal, July 2018

    • Matsumoto, Tatsuya; Ioka, Kunihito; Kisaka, Shota
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 861, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aac4a8

    A Long-lived Remnant Neutron Star after GW170817 Inferred from Its Associated Kilonova
    journal, July 2018


    Numerical Simulations of the Jet Dynamics and Synchrotron Radiation of Binary Neutron Star Merger Event GW170817/GRB 170817A
    journal, August 2018

    • Xie, Xiaoyi; Zrake, Jonathan; MacFadyen, Andrew
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 863, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aacf9c

    Physical Conditions for the r -process. I. Radioactive Energy Sources of Kilonovae
    journal, November 2018


    From γ to Radio: The Electromagnetic Counterpart of GW170817
    journal, October 2018


    Scattered Short Gamma-Ray Bursts as Electromagnetic Counterparts to Gravitational Waves and Implications of GW170817 and GRB 170817A
    journal, October 2018

    • Kisaka, Shota; Ioka, Kunihito; Kashiyama, Kazumi
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 867, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aae30a

    Radioactive Heating and Late Time Kilonova Light Curves
    journal, May 2019


    The Lanthanide Fraction Distribution in Metal-poor Stars: A Test of Neutron Star Mergers as the Dominant r -process Site
    journal, August 2019

    • Ji, Alexander P.; Drout, Maria R.; Hansen, Terese T.
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 882, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab3291

    Double Neutron Star Mergers from Hierarchical Triple-star Systems
    journal, September 2019


    GW170817: Joint Constraint on the Neutron Star Equation of State from Multimessenger Observations
    journal, January 2018

    • Radice, David; Perego, Albino; Zappa, Francesco
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 852, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aaa402

    The Orbit of GW170817 Was Inclined by Less Than 28° to the Line of Sight
    journal, January 2018


    Spitzer Space Telescope Infrared Observations of the Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817
    journal, July 2018

    • Villar, V. A.; Cowperthwaite, P. S.; Berger, E.
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 862, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aad281

    Radiative Transfer Simulation for the Optical and Near-infrared Electromagnetic Counterparts to GW170817
    journal, September 2018

    • Kawaguchi, Kyohei; Shibata, Masaru; Tanaka, Masaomi
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 865, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aade02

    SN2018kzr: A Rapidly Declining Transient from the Destruction of a White Dwarf
    journal, October 2019

    • McBrien, Owen R.; Smartt, Stephen J.; Chen, Ting-Wan
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 885, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab4dae

    Formation and Merging of Mass Gap Black Holes in Gravitational-wave Merger Events from Wide Hierarchical Quadruple Systems
    journal, December 2019

    • Safarzadeh, Mohammadtaher; Hamers, Adrian S.; Loeb, Abraham
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 888, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab5dc8

    The impact of the crust equation of state on the analysis of GW170817
    journal, December 2019


    A Strategy for LSST to Unveil a Population of Kilonovae without Gravitational-wave Triggers
    journal, May 2019

    • Andreoni, Igor; Anand, Shreya; Bianco, Federica B.
    • Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 131, Issue 1000
    • DOI: 10.1088/1538-3873/ab1531

    GRB 170817A as a jet counterpart to gravitational wave triggerGW 170817
    journal, May 2018

    • Lamb, Gavin P.; Kobayashi, Shiho
    • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 478, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty1108

    The impact of electron-capture supernovae on merging double neutron stars
    journal, October 2018

    • Giacobbo, Nicola; Mapelli, Michela
    • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 482, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty2848

    Implications of the radio and X-ray emission that followed GW170817
    journal, April 2018

    • Nakar, Ehud; Piran, Tsvi
    • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 478, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty952

    Double neutron star formation: merger times, systemic velocities, and travel distances
    journal, April 2019

    • Andrews, Jeff J.; Zezas, Andreas
    • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 486, Issue 3
    • DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz1066

    Detectability of neutron star merger afterglows
    journal, July 2019

    • Gottlieb, Ore; Nakar, Ehud; Piran, Tsvi
    • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 488, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz1906

    possis: predicting spectra, light curves, and polarization for multidimensional models of supernovae and kilonovae
    journal, September 2019

    • Bulla, M.
    • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 489, Issue 4
    • DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz2495

    Are fast radio bursts the most likely electromagnetic counterpart of neutron star mergers resulting in prompt collapse?
    journal, August 2019


    Fingerprints of Heavy-Element Nucleosynthesis in the Late-Time Lightcurves of Kilonovae
    journal, February 2019


    Prospects for observing and localizing gravitational-wave transients with Advanced LIGO, Advanced Virgo and KAGRA
    text, January 2020

    • Abbott, B. P.; Abbott, R.; Abbott, T. D.
    • Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
    • DOI: 10.17863/cam.57867

    Expected neutrino fluence from short Gamma-Ray Burst 170817A and off-axis angle constraints
    text, January 2018

    • Biehl, Daniel; Heinze, Jonas; Winter, W.
    • Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, DESY, Hamburg
    • DOI: 10.3204/pubdb-2018-01377

    Binary Neutron Star Mergers: Mass Ejection, Electromagnetic Counterparts, and Nucleosynthesis
    journal, December 2018

    • Radice, David; Perego, Albino; Hotokezaka, Kenta
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 869, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aaf054

    Diversity of Kilonova Light Curves
    journal, February 2020

    • Kawaguchi, Kyohei; Shibata, Masaru; Tanaka, Masaomi
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 889, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab61f6

    Estimating the Contribution of Dynamical Ejecta in the Kilonova Associated with GW170817
    journal, December 2017


    Neutron-star Radius Constraints from GW170817 and Future Detections
    journal, November 2017

    • Bauswein, Andreas; Just, Oliver; Janka, Hans-Thomas
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 850, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa9994

    AT 2017gfo: An Anisotropic and Three-component Kilonova Counterpart of GW170817
    journal, November 2017

    • Perego, Albino; Radice, David; Bernuzzi, Sebastiano
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 850, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa9ab9

    A Precise Distance to the Host Galaxy of the Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817 Using Surface Brightness Fluctuations
    journal, February 2018

    • Cantiello, Michele; Jensen, J. B.; Blakeslee, J. P.
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 854, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aaad64

    The Binary Neutron Star Event LIGO/Virgo GW170817 160 Days after Merger: Synchrotron Emission across the Electromagnetic Spectrum
    journal, March 2018


    What Powered the Optical Transient AT2017gfo Associated with GW170817?
    journal, July 2018


    Viscous-dynamical Ejecta from Binary Neutron Star Mergers
    journal, December 2018

    • Radice, David; Perego, Albino; Hotokezaka, Kenta
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 869, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aaf053

    The Optical Afterglow of GW170817: An Off-axis Structured Jet and Deep Constraints on a Globular Cluster Origin
    journal, September 2019

    • Fong, W.; Blanchard, P. K.; Alexander, K. D.
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 883, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab3d9e

    Spiral-wave Wind for the Blue Kilonova
    journal, November 2019

    • Nedora, Vsevolod; Bernuzzi, Sebastiano; Radice, David
    • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 886, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab5794