Illuminating gravitational waves: A concordant picture of photons from a neutron star merger

M. M. Kasliwal*, E. Nakar, L. P. Singer, D. L. Kaplan, D. O. Cook, A. Van Sistine, R. M. Lau, C. Fremling, O. Gottlieb, J. E. Jencson, S. M. Adams, U. Feindt, K. Hotokezaka, S. Ghosh, D. A. Perley, P. C. Yu, T. Piran, J. R. Allison, G. C. Anupama, A. BalasubramanianK. W. Bannister, J. Bally, J. Barnes, S. Barway, E. Bellm, V. Bhalerao, D. Bhattacharya, N. Blagorodnova, J. S. Bloom, P. R. Brady, C. Cannella, D. Chatterjee, S. B. Cenko, B. E. Cobb, C. Copperwheat, A. Corsi, K. De, D. Dobie, S. W.K. Emery, P. A. Evans, O. D. Fox, D. A. Frail, C. Frohmaier, A. Goobar, G. Hallinan, F. Harrison, G. Helou, T. Hinderer, A. Y.Q. Ho, A. Horesh, W. H. Ip, R. Itoh, D. Kasen, H. Kim, N. P.M. Kuin, T. Kupfer, C. Lynch, K. Madsen, P. A. Mazzali, A. A. Miller, K. Mooley, T. Murphy, C. C. Ngeow, D. Nichols, S. Nissanke, P. Nugent, E. O. Ofek, H. Qi, R. M. Quimby, S. Rosswog, F. Rusu, E. M. Sadler, P. Schmidt, J. Sollerman, I. Steele, A. R. Williamson, Y. Xu, L. Yan, Y. Yatsu, C. Zhang, W. Zhao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

576 Scopus citations

Abstract

Merging neutron stars offer an excellent laboratory for simultaneously studying strong-field gravity and matter in extreme environments. We establish the physical association of an electromagnetic counterpart (EM170817) with gravitational waves (GW170817) detected from merging neutron stars. By synthesizing a panchromatic data set, we demonstrate that merging neutron stars are a long-sought production site forging heavy elements by r-process nucleosynthesis. The weak gamma rays seen in EM170817 are dissimilar to classical short gamma-ray bursts with ultrarelativistic jets. Instead, we suggest that breakout of a wide-angle, mildly relativistic cocoon engulfing the jet explains the low-luminosity gamma rays, the high-luminosity ultraviolet-optical-infrared, and the delayed radio and x-ray emission. We posit that all neutron star mergers may lead to a wide-angle cocoon breakout, sometimes accompanied by a successful jet and sometimes by a choked jet.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1559-1565
Number of pages7
JournalScience
Volume358
Issue number6370
DOIs
StatePublished - 22 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank I. Kostadinova for seamlessly coordinating the GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen) project; B. Griswold for beautiful graphic art; P. Whitelock for facilitating InfraRed Survey Facility observations; S. Barthelmy for setting up a Ligo Virgo Consortium Gamma-ray Coordination Network system that facilitated quick, citable communication between astronomers and maximized the science return; S. Phinney, S. Kulkarni, and L. Bildsten for valuable comments; the staff of Gemini Observatory, particularly the director, L. Ferrarese, for rapidly approving our Director’s Discretionary Time request; and our program contact scientists M. Shirmer, H. Kim, K. Silva, M. Andersen, and R. Salinas for supporting and executing observations. We are especially grateful to Gemini for postponing scheduled maintenance on the FLAMINGOS-2 instrument to allow us to obtain as much data as possible on this extraordinary event. This work was supported by the GROWTH project funded by the National Science Foundation under Partnerships for International Research and Education grant no. 1545949. GROWTH is a collaborative project among the California Institute of Technology (USA), University of Maryland College Park (USA), University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (USA), Texas Tech University (USA), San Diego State University (USA), Los Alamos National Laboratory (USA), Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan), National Central University (Taiwan), Indian Institute of Astrophysics (India), Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (India), Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), The Oskar Klein Centre at Stockholm University (Sweden), Humboldt University (Germany), and Liverpool John Moores University (UK). Full facility and funding acknowledgements are provided in the supplementary materials. The photometric data that we used are tabulated in table S1. All of our raw observations are available in observatory archives; URLs and project numbers are provided in the supplementary materials. The PLUTO software used for our simulations is available at http://plutocode.ph.unito.it/; our simulation input and output files are provided as data S1 and S2.

Funding Information:
We thank I. Kostadinova for seamlessly coordinating the GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen) project; B. Griswold for beautiful graphic art; P. Whitelock for facilitating InfraRed Survey Facility observations; S. Barthelmy for setting up a Ligo Virgo Consortium Gamma-ray Coordination Network system that facilitated quick, citable communication between astronomers and maximized the science return; S. Phinney, S. Kulkarni, and L. Bildsten for valuable comments; the staff of Gemini Observatory, particularly the director, L. Ferrarese, for rapidly approving our Director?s Discretionary Time request; and our program contact scientists M. Shirmer, H. Kim, K. Silva, M. Andersen, and R. Salinas for supporting and executing observations. We are especially grateful to Gemini for postponing scheduled maintenance on the FLAMINGOS-2 instrument to allow us to obtain as much data as possible on this extraordinary event. This work was supported by the GROWTH project funded by the National Science Foundation under Partnerships for International Research and Education grant no. 1545949. GROWTH is a collaborative project among the California Institute of Technology (USA), University of Maryland College Park (USA), University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (USA), Texas Tech University (USA), San Diego State University (USA), Los Alamos National Laboratory (USA), Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan), National Central University (Taiwan), Indian Institute of Astrophysics (India), Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (India), Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), The Oskar Klein Centre at Stockholm University (Sweden), Humboldt University (Germany), and Liverpool John Moores University (UK). Full facility and funding acknowledgements are provided in the supplementary materials. The photometric data that we used are tabulated in table S1. All of our raw observations are available in observatory archives; URLs and project numbers are provided in the supplementary materials. The PLUTO software used for our simulations is available at http://plutocode.ph.unito.it/; our simulation input and output files are provided as data S1 and S2.

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