skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on March 1, 2023

Title: Kilonova Detectability with Wide-field Instruments
Abstract Kilonovae are ultraviolet, optical, and infrared transients powered by the radioactive decay of heavy elements following a neutron star merger. Joint observations of kilonovae and gravitational waves can offer key constraints on the source of Galactic r -process enrichment, among other astrophysical topics. However, robust constraints on heavy element production require rapid kilonova detection (within ∼1 day of merger) as well as multiwavelength observations across multiple epochs. In this study, we quantify the ability of 13 wide-field-of-view instruments to detect kilonovae, leveraging a large grid of over 900 radiative transfer simulations with 54 viewing angles per simulation. We consider both current and upcoming instruments, collectively spanning the full kilonova spectrum. The Roman Space Telescope has the highest redshift reach of any instrument in the study, observing kilonovae out to z ∼ 1 within the first day post-merger. We demonstrate that BlackGEM, DECam, GOTO, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s LSST, ULTRASAT, VISTA, and WINTER can observe some kilonovae out to z ∼ 0.1 (∼475 Mpc), while DDOTI, MeerLICHT, PRIME, Swift/UVOT, and ZTF are confined to more nearby observations. Furthermore, we provide a framework to infer kilonova ejecta properties following nondetections and explore variation in detectability with these ejecta parameters.
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1909534
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10325163
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Volume:
927
Issue:
2
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
163
ISSN:
0004-637X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract We study the production of very light elements ( Z < 20) in the dynamical and spiral-wave wind ejecta of binary neutron star mergers by combining detailed nucleosynthesis calculations with the outcome of numerical relativity merger simulations. All our models are targeted to GW170817 and include neutrino radiation. We explore different finite-temperature, composition-dependent nuclear equations of state, and binary mass ratios, and find that hydrogen and helium are the most abundant light elements. For both elements, the decay of free neutrons is the driving nuclear reaction. In particular, ∼0.5–2 × 10 −6 M ⊙ of hydrogen are produced inmore »the fast expanding tail of the dynamical ejecta, while ∼1.5–11 × 10 −6 M ⊙ of helium are synthesized in the bulk of the dynamical ejecta, usually in association with heavy r -process elements. By computing synthetic spectra, we find that the possibility of detecting hydrogen and helium features in kilonova spectra is very unlikely for fiducial masses and luminosities, even when including nonlocal thermodynamic equilibrium effects. The latter could be crucial to observe helium lines a few days after merger for faint kilonovae or for luminous kilonovae ejecting large masses of helium. Finally, we compute the amount of strontium synthesized in the dynamical and spiral-wave wind ejecta, and find that it is consistent with (or even larger than, in the case of a long-lived remnant) the one required to explain early spectral features in the kilonova of GW170817.« less
  2. Abstract We present optical follow-up imaging obtained with the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Nickel Telescope, Swope Telescope, and Thacher Telescope of the LIGO/Virgo gravitational wave (GW) signal from the neutron star–black hole (NSBH) merger GW190814. We searched the GW190814 localization region (19 deg 2 for the 90th percentile best localization), covering a total of 51 deg 2 and 94.6% of the two-dimensional localization region. Analyzing the properties of 189 transients that we consider as candidate counterparts to the NSBH merger, including their localizations, discovery times from merger, optical spectra, likely host galaxy redshifts, andmore »photometric evolution, we conclude that none of these objects are likely to be associated with GW190814. Based on this finding, we consider the likely optical properties of an electromagnetic counterpart to GW190814, including possible kilonovae and short gamma-ray burst afterglows. Using the joint limits from our follow-up imaging, we conclude that a counterpart with an r -band decline rate of 0.68 mag day −1 , similar to the kilonova AT 2017gfo, could peak at an absolute magnitude of at most −17.8 mag (50% confidence). Our data are not constraining for “red” kilonovae and rule out “blue” kilonovae with M > 0.5 M ⊙ (30% confidence). We strongly rule out all known types of short gamma-ray burst afterglows with viewing angles <17° assuming an initial jet opening angle of ∼5.°2 and explosion energies and circumburst densities similar to afterglows explored in the literature. Finally, we explore the possibility that GW190814 merged in the disk of an active galactic nucleus, of which we find four in the localization region, but we do not find any candidate counterparts among these sources.« less
  3. ABSTRACT The merger of two neutron stars produces an outflow of radioactive heavy nuclei. Within a second of merger, the central remnant is expected to also launch a relativistic jet, which shock-heats and disrupts a portion of the radioactive ejecta. Within a few hours, emission from the radioactive material gives rise to an ultraviolet, optical, and infrared transient (a kilonova). We use the endstates of a suite of 2D relativistic hydrodynamic simulations of jet–ejecta interaction as initial conditions for multidimensional Monte Carlo radiation transport simulations of the resulting viewing angle-dependent light curves and spectra starting at $1.5\, \mathrm{h}$ after merger.more »We find that on this time-scale, jet shock heating does not affect the kilonova emission for the jet parameters we survey. However, the jet disruption to the density structure of the ejecta does change the light curves. The jet carves a channel into the otherwise spheroidal ejecta, revealing the hot, inner regions. As seen from near (≲30°) the jet axis, the kilonova is brighter by a factor of a few and bluer. The strength of this effect depends on the jet parameters, since the light curves of more heavily disrupted ejecta are more strongly affected. The light curves and spectra are also more heavily modified in the ultraviolet than in the optical.« less
  4. Abstract We examine the effect of spatial resolution on initial mass ejection in grid-based hydrodynamic simulations of binary neutron star mergers. The subset of the dynamical ejecta with velocities greater than ∼0.6 c can generate an ultraviolet precursor to the kilonova on approximately hour timescales and contribute to a years long nonthermal afterglow. Previous work has found differing amounts of this fast ejecta, by one to two orders of magnitude, when using particle-based or grid-based hydrodynamic methods. Here, we carry out a numerical experiment that models the merger as an axisymmetric collision in a corotating frame, accounting for Newtonian self-gravity,more »inertial forces, and gravitational wave losses. The lower computational cost allows us to reach spatial resolutions as high as 4 m, or ∼3 × 10 −4 of the stellar radius. We find that fast ejecta production converges to within 10% for a cell size of 20 m. This suggests that fast ejecta quantities found in existing grid-based merger simulations are unlikely to increase to the level needed to match particle-based results upon further resolution increases. The resulting neutron-powered precursors are in principle detectable out to distances ≲200 Mpc with upcoming facilities.We also find that head-on collisions at the freefall speed, relevant for eccentric mergers, yield fast and slow ejecta quantities of order 10 −2 M ⊙ , with a kilonova signature distinct from that of quasi-circular mergers.« less
  5. Abstract Neutrinos are copiously emitted by neutron star mergers, due to the high temperatures reached by dense matter during the merger and its aftermath. Neutrinos influence the merger dynamics and shape the properties of the ejecta, including the resulting r -process nucleosynthesis and kilonova emission. In this work, we analyse neutrino emission from a large sample of binary neutron star merger simulations in Numerical Relativity, covering a broad range of initial masses, nuclear equation of state and viscosity treatments. We extract neutrino luminosities and mean energies, and compute quantities of interest such as the peak values, peak broadnesses, time averagesmore »and decrease time scales. We provide a systematic description of such quantities, including their dependence on the initial parameters of the system. We find that for equal-mass systems the total neutrino luminosity (several $$10^{53}{\hbox {erg}~{\hbox {s}}^{-1}}$$ 10 53 erg s - 1 ) decreases as the reduced tidal deformability increases, as a consequence of the less violent merger dynamics. Similarly, tidal disruption in asymmetric mergers leads to systematically smaller luminosities. Peak luminosities can be twice as large as the average ones. Electron antineutrino luminosities dominate (initially by a factor of 2-3) over electron neutrino ones, while electron neutrinos and heavy flavour neutrinos have similar luminosities. Mean energies are nearly constant in time and independent on the binary parameters. Their values reflect the different decoupling temperature inside the merger remnant. Despite present uncertainties in neutrino modelling, our results provide a broad and physically grounded characterisation of neutrino emission, and they can serve as a reference point to develop more sophisticated neutrino transport schemes.« less