skip to main content

Title: The Effect of the Velocity Distribution on Kilonova Emission

The electromagnetic emission from the nonrelativistic ejecta launched in neutron star mergers (either dynamically or through a disk wind) has the potential to probe both the total mass and composition of this ejecta. These observations are crucial in understanding the role of these mergers in the production ofr-process elements in the Universe. However, many properties of the ejecta can alter the light curves and we must both identify which properties play a role in shaping this emission and understand the effects these properties have on the emission before we can use observations to place strong constraints on the amount ofr-process elements produced in the merger. This paper focuses on understanding the effect of the velocity distribution (amount of mass moving at different velocities) for lanthanide-rich ejecta on the light curves and spectra. The simulations use distributions guided by recent calculations of disk outflows and compare the velocity-distribution effects to those of ejecta mass, velocity, and composition. Our comparisons show that uncertainties in the velocity distribution can lead to a factor of 2–4 uncertainties in the inferred ejecta mass based on peak infrared luminosities. We also show that early-time UV or optical observations may be able to constrain the velocity distribution, reducing the uncertainty in the ejecta mass.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 9
["Article No. 9"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The astrophysical environments capable of triggering heavy-element synthesis via rapid neutron capture (ther-process) remain uncertain. While binary neutron star mergers (NSMs) are known to forger-process elements, certain rare supernovae (SNe) have been theorized to supplement—or even dominate—r-production by NSMs. However, the most direct evidence for such SNe, unusual reddening of the emission caused by the high opacities ofr-process elements, has not been observed. Recent work identified the distribution ofr-process material within the SN ejecta as a key predictor of the ease with which signals associated withr-process enrichment could be discerned. Though this distribution results from hydrodynamic processes at play during the SN explosion, thus far it has been treated only in a parameterized way. We use hydrodynamic simulations to model how disk winds—the alleged locus ofr-production in rare SNe—mix with initiallyr-process-free ejecta. We study mixing as a function of the wind mass, wind duration, and the initial SN explosion energy, and find that it increases with the first two of these and decreases with the third. This suggests that SNe accompanying the longest long-duration gamma-ray bursts are promising places to search for signs ofr-process enrichment. We use semianalytic radiation transport to connect hydrodynamics to electromagnetic observables, allowing us to assess the mixing level at which the presence ofr-process material can be diagnosed from SN light curves. Analytic arguments constructed atop this foundation imply that a wind-drivenr-process-enriched SN model is unlikely to explain standard energetic SNe.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    One of the open questions following the discovery of GW170817 is whether neutron star (NS) mergers are the only astrophysical sites capable of producingr-process elements. Simulations have shown that 0.01–0.1Mofr-process material could be generated in the outflows originating from the accretion disk surrounding the rapidly rotating black hole that forms as a remnant to both NS mergers and collapsing massive stars associated with long-duration gamma-ray bursts (collapsars). The hallmark signature ofr-process nucleosynthesis in the binary NS merger GW170817 was its long-lasting near-infrared (NIR) emission, thus motivating a systematic photometric study of the light curves of broad-lined stripped-envelope (Ic-BL) supernovae (SNe) associated with collapsars. We present the first systematic study of 25 SNe Ic-BL—including 18 observed with the Zwicky Transient Facility and 7 from the literature—in the optical/NIR bands to determine what quantity ofr-process material, if any, is synthesized in these explosions. Using semi-analytic models designed to account forr-process production in SNe Ic-BL, we perform light curve fitting to derive constraints on ther-process mass for these SNe. We also perform independent light curve fits to models without ther-process. We find that ther-process-free models are a better fit to the light curves of the objects in our sample. Thus, we find no compelling evidence ofr-process enrichment in any of our objects. Further high-cadence infrared photometric studies and nebular spectroscopic analysis would be sensitive to smaller quantities ofr-process ejecta mass or indicate whether all collapsars are completely devoid ofr-process nucleosynthesis.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The heaviest elements in the universe are synthesized through rapid neutron capture (r-process) in extremely neutron-rich outflows. Neutron star mergers were established as an importantr-process source through the multimessenger observation of GW170817. Collapsars were also proposed as a potentially major source of heavy elements; however, this is difficult to probe through optical observations due to contamination by other emission mechanisms. Here we present observational constraints onr-process nucleosynthesis by collapsars based on radio follow-up observations of nearby long gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). We make the hypothesis that late-time radio emission arises from the collapsar wind ejecta responsible for forgingr-process elements, and consider the constraints that can be set on this scenario using radio observations of a sample of Swift/Burst Alert Telescope GRBs located within 2 Gpc. No radio counterpart was identified in excess of the radio afterglow of the GRBs in our sample. This gives the strictest limit to the collapsarr-process contribution of ≲0.2Mfor GRB 060505 and GRB 05826, under the models we considered. Our results additionally constrain energy injection by a long-lived neutron star remnant in some of the considered GRBs. While our results are in tension with collapsars being the majority ofr-process production sites, the ejecta mass and velocity profile of collapsar winds, and the emission parameters, are not yet well modeled. As such, our results are currently subject to large uncertainties, but further theoretical work could greatly improve them.

    more » « less
  4. Kilonovae, one source of electromagnetic emission associated with neutron star mergers, are powered by the decay of radioactive isotopes in the neutron-rich merger ejecta. Models for kilonova emission consistent with the electromagnetic counterpart to GW170817 predict characteristic abundance patterns, determined by the relative balance of different types of material in the outflow. Assuming that the observed source is prototypical, this inferred abundance pattern in turn must matchr-process abundances deduced by other means, such as what is observed in the solar system. We report on analysis comparing the input mass-weighted elemental compositions adopted in our radiative transfer simulations to the mass fractions of elements in the Sun, as a practical prototype for the potentially universal abundance signature from neutron star mergers. We characterize the extent to which our parameter inference results depend on our assumed composition for the dynamical and wind ejecta and examine how the new results compare to previous work. We find that a dynamical ejecta composition calculated using the FRDM2012 nuclear mass and FRLDM fission models with extremely neutron-rich ejecta (Ye= 0.035) along with moderately neutron-rich (Ye= 0.27) wind ejecta composition yields a wind-to-dynamical mass ratio ofMw/Md= 0.47, which best matches the observed AT2017gfo kilonova light curves while also producing the best-matching abundance of neutron capture elements in the solar system, though, allowing for systematics, the ratio may be as high as of order unity.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have historically been divided into two classes. Short-duration GRBs are associated with binary neutron star mergers (NSMs), while long-duration bursts are connected to a subset of core-collapse supernovae (SNe). GRB 211211A recently made headlines as the first long-duration burst purportedly generated by an NSM. The evidence for an NSM origin was excess optical and near-infrared emission consistent with the kilonova observed after the gravitational-wave-detected NSM GW170817. Kilonovae derive their unique electromagnetic signatures from the properties of the heavy elements synthesized by rapid neutron capture (ther-process) following the merger. Recent simulations suggest that the “collapsar” SNe that trigger long GRBs may also producer-process elements. While observations of GRB 211211A and its afterglow rule out an SN typical of those that follow long GRBs, an unusual collapsar could explain both the duration of GRB 211211A and ther-process-powered excess in its afterglow. We use semianalytic radiation transport modeling to evaluate low-mass collapsars as the progenitors of GRB 211211A–like events. We compare a suite of collapsar models to the afterglow-subtracted emission that followed GRB 211211A, and find the best agreement for models with high kinetic energies and an unexpected pattern of56Ni enrichment. We discuss how core-collapse explosions could produce such ejecta, and how distinct our predictions are from those generated by more straightforward kilonova models. We also show that radio observations can distinguish between kilonovae and the more massive collapsar ejecta we consider here.

    more » « less