skip to main content


Title: Searches for Modulated γ-Ray Precursors to Compact Binary Mergers in Fermi-GBM Data
Abstract

GW170817 is the only gravitational-wave event for which a confirmedγ-ray counterpart, GRB 170817A, has been detected. Here, we present a method to search for another type ofγ-ray signal, aγ-ray burst precursor, associated with a compact binary merger. If emitted shortly before the coalescence, a high-energy electromagnetic (EM) flash travels through a highly dynamical and relativistic environment, created by the two compact objects orbiting each other. Thus, the EM signal arriving at an Earth observer could present a somewhat predictable time-dependent modulation. We describe a targeted search method for light curves exhibiting such a modulation, parameterized by the observer-frame component masses and binary merger time, using Fermi-GBM data. The sensitivity of the method is assessed based on simulated signals added to GBM data. The method is then applied to a selection of potentially interesting compact binary mergers detected during the second (O2) and third (O3) observing runs of Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo. We find no significant modulatedγ-ray precursor signal associated with any of the considered events.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10486107
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Volume:
930
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0004-637X
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: Article No. 45
Size(s):
["Article No. 45"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT

    Precursors have been observed seconds to minutes before some short gamma-ray bursts. While the precursor origins remain unknown, one explanation relies on the resonance of neutron star pulsational modes with the tidal forces during the inspiral phase of a compact binary merger. In this paper, we present a model for short gamma-ray burst precursors that relies on tidally resonant neutron star oceans. In this scenario, the onset of tidal resonance in the crust–ocean interface mode ignites the precursor flare, possibly through the interaction between the excited neutron star ocean and the surface magnetic fields. From just the precursor total energy, the time before the main event, and a detected quasi-periodic oscillation frequency, we may constrain the binary parameters and neutron star ocean properties. Our model can immediately distinguish neutron star–black hole mergers from binary neutron star mergers without gravitational wave detection. We apply our model to GRB 211211A, the recently detected long duration short gamma-ray burst with a quasi-periodic precursor, and explore the parameters of this system. The precursor of GRB 211211A is consistent with a tidally resonant neutron star ocean explanation that requires an extreme mass ratio neutron star–black hole merger and a high-mass neutron star. While difficult to reconcile with the main gamma-ray burst and associated kilonova, our results constrain the possible precursor mechanisms in this system. A systematic study of short gamma-ray burst precursors with the model presented here can test precursor origin and probe the possible connection between gamma-ray bursts and neutron star–black hole mergers.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The accretion disks of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are promising locations for the merger of compact objects detected by gravitational wave (GW) observatories. Embedded within a baryon-rich, high-density environment, mergers within AGNs are the only GW channel where an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart must occur (whether detectable or not). Considering AGNs with unusual flaring activity observed by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), we describe a search for candidate EM counterparts to binary black hole (BBH) mergers detected by LIGO/Virgo in O3. After removing probable false positives, we find nine candidate counterparts to BBH mergers during O3 (seven in O3a, two in O3b) with ap-value of 0.0019. Based on ZTF sky coverage, AGN geometry, and merger geometry, we expect ≈3(NBBH/83)(fAGN/0.5) potentially detectable EM counterparts from O3, whereNBBHis the total number of observed BBH mergers andfAGNis the fraction originating in AGNs. Further modeling of breakout and flaring phenomena in AGN disks is required to reduce our false-positive rate. Two of the events are also associated with mergers with total masses >100M, which is the expected rate for O3 if hierarchical (large-mass) mergers occur in the AGN channel. Candidate EM counterparts in future GW observing runs can be better constrained by coverage of the Southern sky as well as spectral monitoring of unusual AGN flaring events in LIGO/Virgo alert volumes. A future set of reliable AGN EM counterparts to BBH mergers will yield an independent means of measuring cosmic expansion (H0) as a function of redshift.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract GW190814 was a compact object binary coalescence detected in gravitational waves by Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo that garnered exceptional community interest due to its excellent localization and the uncertain nature of the binary’s lighter-mass component (either the heaviest known neutron star, or the lightest known black hole). Despite extensive follow-up observations, no electromagnetic counterpart has been identified. Here, we present new radio observations of 75 galaxies within the localization volume at Δ t ≈ 35–266 days post-merger. Our observations cover ∼32% of the total stellar luminosity in the final localization volume and extend to later timescales than previously reported searches, allowing us to place the deepest constraints to date on the existence of a radio afterglow from a highly off-axis relativistic jet launched during the merger (assuming that the merger occurred within the observed area). For a viewing angle of ∼46° (the best-fit binary inclination derived from the gravitational wave signal) and assumed electron and magnetic field energy fractions of ϵ e = 0.1 and ϵ B = 0.01, we can rule out a typical short gamma-ray burst-like Gaussian jet with an opening angle of 15° and isotropic-equivalent kinetic energy 2 × 10 51 erg propagating into a constant-density medium n ≳ 0.1 cm −3 . These are the first limits resulting from a galaxy-targeted search for a radio counterpart to a gravitational wave event, and we discuss the challenges—and possible advantages—of applying similar search strategies to future events using current and upcoming radio facilities. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Neutron stars (NSs) are extraordinary not only because they are the densest form of matter in the visible Universe but also because they can generate magnetic fields ten orders of magnitude larger than those currently constructed on earth. The combination of extreme gravity with the enormous electromagnetic (EM) fields gives rise to spectacular phenomena like those observed on August 2017 with the merger of a binary neutron star system, an event that generated a gravitational wave (GW) signal, a short γ-ray burst (sGRB), and a kilonova. This event serves as the highlight so far of the era of multimessenger astronomy. In this review, we present the current state of our theoretical understanding of compact binary mergers containing NSs as gleaned from the latest general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations. Such mergers can lead to events like the one on August 2017, GW170817, and its EM counterparts, GRB 170817 and AT 2017gfo. In addition to exploring the GW emission from binary black hole-neutron star and neutron star-neutron star mergers, we also focus on their counterpart EM signals. In particular, we are interested in identifying the conditions under which a relativistic jet can be launched following these mergers. Such a jet is an essential feature of most sGRB models and provides the main conduit of energy from the central object to the outer radiation regions. Jet properties, including their lifetimes and Poynting luminosities, the effects of the initial magnetic field geometries and spins of the coalescing NSs, as well as their governing equation of state, are discussed. Lastly, we present our current understanding of how the Blandford-Znajek mechanism arises from merger remnants as the trigger for launching jets, if, when and how a horizon is necessary for this mechanism, and the possibility that it can turn on in magnetized neutron ergostars, which contain ergoregions, but no horizons. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    We present Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (Fermi-GBM) and Swift Burst Alert Telescope (Swift-BAT) searches for gamma-ray/X-ray counterparts to gravitational-wave (GW) candidate events identified during the third observing run of the Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo detectors. Using Fermi-GBM onboard triggers and subthreshold gamma-ray burst (GRB) candidates found in the Fermi-GBM ground analyses, the Targeted Search and the Untargeted Search, we investigate whether there are any coincident GRBs associated with the GWs. We also search the Swift-BAT rate data around the GW times to determine whether a GRB counterpart is present. No counterparts are found. Using both the Fermi-GBM Targeted Search and the Swift-BAT search, we calculate flux upper limits and present joint upper limits on the gamma-ray luminosity of each GW. Given these limits, we constrain theoretical models for the emission of gamma rays from binary black hole mergers.

     
    more » « less