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  1. Abstract We present the complete set of Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the binary neutron star merger GW170817 and its optical counterpart AT 2017gfo. Including deep template imaging in F814W, F110W, F140W, and F160W at 3.4 yr post-merger, we reanalyze the full light curve of AT 2017gfo across 12 bands from 5 to 1273 rest-frame days after merger. We obtain four new detections of the short γ -ray burst 170817A afterglow from 109 to 170 rest-frame days post-merger. These detections are consistent with the previously observed β = −0.6 spectral index in the afterglow light curve with no evidence for spectral evolution. We also analyze our limits in the context of kilonova afterglow or IR dust echo emission but find that our limits are not constraining for these models. We use the new data to construct deep optical and IR stacks, reaching limits of M = −6.3 to −4.6 mag, to analyze the local environment around AT 2017gfo and low surface brightness features in its host galaxy NGC 4993. We rule out the presence of any globular cluster at the position of AT 2017gfo to 2.3 × 10 4 L ⊙ , including those with the reddest V − Hmore »colors. Finally, we analyze the substructure of NGC 4993 in deep residual imaging and find shell features that extend up to 71.″8 (14.2 kpc) from NGC 4993. The shells have a cumulative stellar mass of 6.3 × 10 8 M ⊙ , roughly 2% of NGC 4993, and mass-weighted ages of >3 Gyr. We conclude that it was unlikely that the GW170817 progenitor system formed in the galaxy merger.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. Abstract

    The discovery of the electromagnetic counterpart to the binary neutron star (NS) merger GW170817 has opened the era of gravitational-wave multimessenger astronomy. Rapid identification of the optical/infrared kilonova enabled a precise localization of the source, which paved the way to deep multiwavelength follow-up and its myriad of related science results. Fully exploiting this new territory of exploration requires the acquisition of electromagnetic data from samples of NS mergers and other gravitational-wave sources. After GW170817, the frontier is now to map the diversity of kilonova properties and provide more stringent constraints on the Hubble constant, and enable new tests of fundamental physics. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time can play a key role in this field in the 2020s, when an improved network of gravitational-wave detectors is expected to reach a sensitivity that will enable the discovery of a high rate of merger events involving NSs (∼tens per year) out to distances of several hundred megaparsecs. We design comprehensive target-of-opportunity observing strategies for follow-up of gravitational-wave triggers that will make the Rubin Observatory the premier instrument for discovery and early characterization of NS and other compact-object mergers, and yet unknown classes of gravitational-wave events.