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

December 2017 • 2017Sci...358.1559K

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

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.


IPAC Authors

David Cook

Assistant Scientist