ITC Colloquium 11/30 - Brian Metzger (Columbia)


Thursday, November 30, 2017, 11:00am to 12:00pm


"Kilonova Emission from a Binary Neutron Star Merger"
Abstract: On August 17 the LIGO/Virgo gravitational wave observatories detected the first binary neutron star merger event (GW170817), a discovery followed by the most ambitious electromagnetic (EM) follow-up campaign ever conducted. Within 2 seconds of the merger, a weak burst of gamma-rays was discovered by the Fermi and INTEGRAL satellites. Within 11 hours, a bright but rapidly-fading thermal optical counterpart was discovered in the galaxy NGC 4993 at a distance of only 130 Million light years. The properties of the optical transient match remarkably well predictions for “kilonova” emission powered by the radioactive decay of heavy nuclei synthesized in the expanding merger ejecta by rapid neutron capture nucleosynthesis (r-process). The rapid spectral evolution of the kilonova emission to near-infrared wavelengths demonstrates that a portion of the ejecta contains heavy lanthanide nuclei. I will argue that the end-product of the merger was likely a temporarily-stable hyper-massive neutron star, which collapsed to a black hole relatively rapidly (longer than a few milliseconds but less than a few hundred milliseconds after the merger), and show this inference places a strict upper limit on the radius and maximum mass of a neutron star. Finally, I will preview the diversity of kilonova emission expected in the upcoming era of multi-messenger astronomy, once Advanced LIGO/Virgo reach design sensitivity and a neutron star merger is detected every few weeks.
See also: Colloquium, 2017-18