A Case Study of On-the-fly Wide-field Radio Imaging Applied to the Gravitational Wave Event GW151226

K. P. Mooley, D. A. Frail, S. T. Myers, S. R. Kulkarni, K. Hotokezaka, L. P. Singer, A. Horesh, M. M. Kasliwal, S. B. Cenko, G. Hallinan

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Abstract

We apply a newly developed on-the-fly mosaicing technique on the Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) at 3 GHz in order to carry out a sensitive search for an afterglow from the Advanced LIGO binary black hole merger event GW151226. In three epochs between 1.5 and 6 months post-merger, we observed a 100 deg2 region, with more than 80% of the survey region having an rms sensitivity of better than 150 μJy/beam, in the northern hemisphere with a merger containment probability of 10%. The data were processed in near real time and analyzed to search for transients and variables. No transients were found but we have demonstrated the ability to conduct blind searches in a time-frequency phase space where the predicted afterglow signals are strongest. If the gravitational wave event is contained within our survey region, the upper limit on any late-time radio afterglow from the merger event at an assumed mean distance of 440 Mpc is about 1029 erg s-1 Hz-1. Approximately 1.5% of the radio sources in the field showed variability at a level of 30%, and can be attributed to normal activity from active galactic nuclei. The low rate of false positives in the radio sky suggests that wide-field imaging searches at a few Gigahertz can be an efficient and competitive search strategy. We discuss our search method in the context of the recent afterglow detection from GW170817 and radio follow-up in future gravitational wave observing runs.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number143
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume857
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..

Keywords

  • gravitational waves
  • methods: observational
  • radio continuum: general
  • surveys

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