skip to main content
DOE PAGES title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. VII. Properties of the Host Galaxy and Constraints on the Merger Timescale

Abstract

Here, we present the properties of NGC 4993, the host galaxy of GW170817, the first gravitational-wave (GW) event from the merger of a binary neutron star (BNS) system and the first with an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart. We use both archival photometry and new optical/near-IR imaging and spectroscopy, together with stellar population synthesis models to infer the global properties of the host galaxy. We infer a star formation history peaked at $$\gtrsim 10\,\mathrm{Gyr}$$ ago, with subsequent exponential decline leading to a low current star formation rate of 0.01 $${M}_{\odot }$$ yr –1, which we convert into a binary merger timescale probability distribution. We find a median merger timescale of $${11.2}_{-1.4}^{+0.7}$$ Gyr, with a 90% confidence range of $$6.8\mbox{–}13.6\,\mathrm{Gyr}$$. This in turn indicates an initial binary separation of $$\approx 4.5$$ $${R}_{\odot }$$, comparable to the inferred values for Galactic BNS systems. We also use new and archival Hubble Space Telescope images to measure a projected offset of the optical counterpart of 2.1 kpc (0.64r e ) from the center of NGC 4993 and to place a limit of $${M}_{r}\gtrsim -7.2$$ mag on any pre-existing emission, which rules out the brighter half of the globular cluster luminosity function. Finally, the age and offset of the system indicates it experienced a modest natal kick with an upper limit of ~200 km s –1. Future GW–EM observations of BNS mergers will enable measurement of their population delay time distribution, which will directly inform their viability as the dominant source of r-process enrichment in the universe.

Authors:
 [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [1];  [3];  [4];  [1];  [1];  [5];  [6];  [7];  [3];  [1];  [8];  [3] more »;  [9];  [10];  [6];  [11] « less
  1. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA (United States)
  2. Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL (United States)
  3. Univ. of Chicago, Chicago, IL (United States)
  4. Ohio Univ., Athens, OH (United States)
  5. Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
  6. Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (United States)
  7. Syracuse Univ., Syracuse, NY (United States)
  8. Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States); The Univ. of Chicago, Chicago, IL (United States)
  9. Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States)
  10. Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD (United States); The Johns Hopkins Univ., Baltimore, MD (United States)
  11. Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States); Brandeis Univ., Waltham, MA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States); Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (NA-20); USDOE Office of Science (SC), High Energy Physics (HEP) (SC-25)
OSTI Identifier:
1417825
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1409349
Report Number(s):
[LA-UR-17-28901; arXiv:1710.05458; FERMILAB-PUB-17-473-A-AE-CD]
[Journal ID: ISSN 2041-8213]
Grant/Contract Number:  
[AC52-06NA25396; 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; galaxies: individual (NGC 4993); gravitational waves; stars: neutron

Citation Formats

Blanchard, P. K., Berger, E., Fong, W., Nicholl, M., Leja, J., Conroy, C., Alexander, K. D., Margutti, R., Williams, P. K. G., Doctor, Z., Chornock, R., Villar, V. A., Cowperthwaite, P. S., Annis, J., Brout, D., Brown, D. A., Chen, H. -Y., Eftekhari, T., Frieman, J. A., Holz, D. E., Metzger, B. D., Rest, A., Sako, M., and Soares-Santos, M. The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. VII. Properties of the Host Galaxy and Constraints on the Merger Timescale. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aa9055.
Blanchard, P. K., Berger, E., Fong, W., Nicholl, M., Leja, J., Conroy, C., Alexander, K. D., Margutti, R., Williams, P. K. G., Doctor, Z., Chornock, R., Villar, V. A., Cowperthwaite, P. S., Annis, J., Brout, D., Brown, D. A., Chen, H. -Y., Eftekhari, T., Frieman, J. A., Holz, D. E., Metzger, B. D., Rest, A., Sako, M., & Soares-Santos, M. The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. VII. Properties of the Host Galaxy and Constraints on the Merger Timescale. United States. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aa9055.
Blanchard, P. K., Berger, E., Fong, W., Nicholl, M., Leja, J., Conroy, C., Alexander, K. D., Margutti, R., Williams, P. K. G., Doctor, Z., Chornock, R., Villar, V. A., Cowperthwaite, P. S., Annis, J., Brout, D., Brown, D. A., Chen, H. -Y., Eftekhari, T., Frieman, J. A., Holz, D. E., Metzger, B. D., Rest, A., Sako, M., and Soares-Santos, M. Mon . "The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. VII. Properties of the Host Galaxy and Constraints on the Merger Timescale". United States. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aa9055. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1417825.
@article{osti_1417825,
title = {The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. VII. Properties of the Host Galaxy and Constraints on the Merger Timescale},
author = {Blanchard, P. K. and Berger, E. and Fong, W. and Nicholl, M. and Leja, J. and Conroy, C. and Alexander, K. D. and Margutti, R. and Williams, P. K. G. and Doctor, Z. and Chornock, R. and Villar, V. A. and Cowperthwaite, P. S. and Annis, J. and Brout, D. and Brown, D. A. and Chen, H. -Y. and Eftekhari, T. and Frieman, J. A. and Holz, D. E. and Metzger, B. D. and Rest, A. and Sako, M. and Soares-Santos, M.},
abstractNote = {Here, we present the properties of NGC 4993, the host galaxy of GW170817, the first gravitational-wave (GW) event from the merger of a binary neutron star (BNS) system and the first with an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart. We use both archival photometry and new optical/near-IR imaging and spectroscopy, together with stellar population synthesis models to infer the global properties of the host galaxy. We infer a star formation history peaked at $\gtrsim 10\,\mathrm{Gyr}$ ago, with subsequent exponential decline leading to a low current star formation rate of 0.01 ${M}_{\odot }$ yr–1, which we convert into a binary merger timescale probability distribution. We find a median merger timescale of ${11.2}_{-1.4}^{+0.7}$ Gyr, with a 90% confidence range of $6.8\mbox{–}13.6\,\mathrm{Gyr}$. This in turn indicates an initial binary separation of $\approx 4.5$ ${R}_{\odot }$, comparable to the inferred values for Galactic BNS systems. We also use new and archival Hubble Space Telescope images to measure a projected offset of the optical counterpart of 2.1 kpc (0.64r e ) from the center of NGC 4993 and to place a limit of ${M}_{r}\gtrsim -7.2$ mag on any pre-existing emission, which rules out the brighter half of the globular cluster luminosity function. Finally, the age and offset of the system indicates it experienced a modest natal kick with an upper limit of ~200 km s–1. Future GW–EM observations of BNS mergers will enable measurement of their population delay time distribution, which will directly inform their viability as the dominant source of r-process enrichment in the universe.},
doi = {10.3847/2041-8213/aa9055},
journal = {The Astrophysical Journal. Letters},
number = [2],
volume = [848],
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {10}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 21 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share:

Works referenced in this record:

Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger
journal, February 2016


GW151226: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a 22-Solar-Mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence
journal, June 2016


GW170104: Observation of a 50-Solar-Mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence at Redshift 0.2
journal, June 2017


GW170817: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Neutron Star Inspiral
journal, October 2017


A Study of Compact Object Mergers as Short Gamma‐Ray Burst Progenitors
journal, September 2006

  • Belczynski, Krzysztof; Perna, Rosalba; Bulik, Tomasz
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 648, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1086/505169

Short-Duration Gamma-Ray Bursts
journal, August 2014


SExtractor: Software for source extraction
journal, June 1996

  • Bertin, E.; Arnouts, S.
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics Supplement Series, Vol. 117, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1051/aas:1996164

THE OFFSET AND HOST LIGHT DISTRIBUTIONS OF LONG GAMMA-RAY BURSTS: A NEW VIEW FROM HST OBSERVATIONS OF SWIFT BURSTS
journal, January 2016


An increased estimate of the merger rate of double neutron stars from observations of a highly relativistic system
journal, December 2003


Nebular Continuum and Line Emission in Stellar Population Synthesis Models
journal, May 2017

  • Byler, Nell; Dalcanton, Julianne J.; Conroy, Charlie
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 840, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aa6c66

Implications for the origin of short gamma-ray bursts from their observed positions around their host galaxies: Spatial offsets of short-duration GRBs
journal, March 2011

  • Church, Ross P.; Levan, Andrew J.; Davies, Melvyn B.
  • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 413, Issue 3
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18277.x

The Goodman spectrograph
conference, September 2004

  • Clemens, J. Christopher; Crain, J. Adam; Anderson, Robert
  • SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation, SPIE Proceedings
  • DOI: 10.1117/12.550069

Counting Low-Mass Stars in Integrated Light
journal, February 2012


Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a), the optical counterpart to a gravitational wave source
journal, October 2017


Double Compact Objects. i. the Significance of the Common Envelope on Merger Rates
journal, October 2012

  • Dominik, Michal; Belczynski, Krzysztof; Fryer, Christopher
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 759, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/759/1/52

The Locations of Short Gamma-Ray Bursts as Evidence for Compact Object Binary Progenitors
journal, September 2013


HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE OBSERVATIONS OF SHORT GAMMA-RAY BURST HOST GALAXIES: MORPHOLOGIES, OFFSETS, AND LOCAL ENVIRONMENTS
journal, December 2009


Long γ-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae have different environments
journal, May 2006

  • Fruchter, A. S.; Levan, A. J.; Strolger, L.
  • Nature, Vol. 441, Issue 7092
  • DOI: 10.1038/nature04787

An Ordinary Short Gamma-Ray Burst with Extraordinary Implications: Fermi -GBM Detection of GRB 170817A
journal, October 2017


High-mass X-ray binaries as a star formation rate indicator in distant galaxies
journal, March 2003


The luminosity distribution of globular clusters in three giant Virgo ellipticals
journal, May 1991

  • Harris, William E.; Allwright, J. W. B.; Pritchet, Christopher J.
  • The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, Vol. 76
  • DOI: 10.1086/191566

Formation of shell galaxies. I - Spherical potentials
journal, August 1988

  • Hernquist, Lars; Quinn, P. J.
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 331
  • DOI: 10.1086/166592

The Leiden/Argentine/Bonn (LAB) Survey of Galactic HI: Final data release of the combined LDS and IAR surveys with improved stray-radiation corrections
journal, September 2005


Formation of double compact objects
journal, April 2007


The host galaxies of active galactic nuclei
journal, December 2003

  • Kauffmann, Guinevere; Heckman, Timothy M.; Tremonti, Christy
  • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 346, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2003.07154.x

Surface Photometry and the Structure of Elliptical Galaxies
journal, September 1989


The Double Pulsar
journal, September 2008


Short Gamma-Ray Bursts from Dynamically Assembled Compact Binaries in Globular Clusters: Pathways, Rates, Hydrodynamics, and Cosmological Setting
journal, August 2010

  • Lee, William H.; Ramirez-Ruiz, Enrico; van de Ven, Glenn
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 720, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/720/1/953

A Fundamental Plane of black hole activity
journal, November 2003


What is the most Promising Electromagnetic Counterpart of a Neutron star Binary Merger?
journal, January 2012


Detailed Decomposition of Galaxy Images. ii. Beyond Axisymmetric Models
journal, April 2010


Gravitational Radiation and the Motion of Two Point Masses
journal, November 1964


Planck 2015 results : XIII. Cosmological parameters
journal, September 2016


Relations Between Central Black hole mass and Total Galaxy Stellar mass in the Local Universe
journal, October 2015


Measuring Reddening with Sloan Digital sky Survey Stellar Spectra and Recalibrating sfd
journal, August 2011


The binary pulsar - Physical processes, possible companions, and evolutionary histories
journal, July 1976

  • Smarr, L. L.; Blandford, R.
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 207
  • DOI: 10.1086/154524

Globular Clusters in Virgo Ellipticals: Unexpected Results for Giants and Dwarfs from Advanced Camera for Surveys Imaging
journal, January 2006

  • Strader, Jay; Brodie, Jean P.; Spitler, Lee
  • The Astronomical Journal, Vol. 132, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1086/509124

Formation of Double Neutron Star Systems
journal, September 2017

  • Tauris, T. M.; Kramer, M.; Freire, P. C. C.
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 846, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aa7e89

Galactic distribution of merging neutron stars and black holes - prospects for short gamma-ray burst progenitors and LIGO/VIRGO
journal, July 2003


Constraints on Natal Kicks in Galactic Double Neutron star Systems
journal, September 2010


Radio–to–Far‐Infrared Spectral Energy Distribution and Photometric Redshifts for Dusty Starburst Galaxies
journal, March 2002

  • Yun, Min S.; Carilli, C. L.
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 568, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.1086/338924

    Works referencing / citing this record:

    Progenitors of gravitational wave mergers: binary evolution with the stellar grid-based code ComBinE
    journal, August 2018

    • Kruckow, Matthias U.; Tauris, Thomas M.; Langer, Norbert
    • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 481, Issue 2
    • DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty2190

    An Empirical Study of Contamination in Deep, Rapid, and Wide-field Optical Follow-up of Gravitational Wave Events
    journal, April 2018