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Multi-messenger Observations of a Binary Neutron Star Merger

LSC Paper
Abbott, B. P., ... Raffai, P., et al. (+3619 authors)
The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Vol. 848, aid. L12
Publication year: 2017

On 2017 August 17 a binary neutron star coalescence candidate (later designated GW170817) with merger time 12:41:04 UTC was observed through gravitational waves by the Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo detectors. The Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor independently detected a gamma-ray burst (GRB 170817A) with a time delay of $\sim 1.7\,{\rm{s}}$ with respect to the merger time. From the gravitational-wave signal, the source was initially localized to a sky region of 31 deg2 at a luminosity distance of ${40}_{-8}^{+8}$ Mpc and with component masses consistent with neutron stars. The component masses were later measured to be in the range 0.86 to 2.26 $\,{M}_{\odot }$. An extensive observing campaign was launched across the electromagnetic spectrum leading to the discovery of a bright optical transient (SSS17a, now with the IAU identification of AT 2017gfo) in NGC 4993 (at $\sim 40\,{\rm{Mpc}}$) less than 11 hours after the merger by the One-Meter, Two Hemisphere (1M2H) team using the 1 m Swope Telescope. The optical transient was independently detected by multiple teams within an hour. Subsequent observations targeted the object and its environment. Early ultraviolet observations revealed a blue transient that faded within 48 hours. Optical and infrared observations showed a redward evolution over ~10 days. Following early non-detections, X-ray and radio emission were discovered at the transient’s position $\sim 9$ and $\sim 16$ days, respectively, after the merger. Both the X-ray and radio emission likely arise from a physical process that is distinct from the one that generates the UV/optical/near-infrared emission. No ultra-high-energy gamma-rays and no neutrino candidates consistent with the source were found in follow-up searches. These observations support the hypothesis that GW170817 was produced by the merger of two neutron stars in NGC 4993 followed by a short gamma-ray burst (GRB 170817A) and a kilonova/macronova powered by the radioactive decay of r-process nuclei synthesized in the ejecta.

A gravitational-wave standard siren measurement of the Hubble constant

LSC Paper
Abbott, B. P., … Raffai, P., et al. (+1312 authors)
Nature, doi:10.1038/nature24471
Publication year: 2017

The detection of GW170817 (ref. 1) heralds the age of gravitational-wave multi-messenger astronomy, with the observations of gravitational-wave and electromagnetic emission from the same transient source. On 17 August 2017 the network of Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO)2 and Virgo3 detectors observed GW170817, a strong signal from the merger of a binary neutron-star system. Less than two seconds after the merger, a γ-ray burst event, GRB 170817A, was detected consistent with the LIGO–Virgo sky localization region4–6). The sky region was subsequently observed by optical astronomy facilities7, resulting in the identification of an optical transient signal within about 10 arcseconds of the galaxy NGC 4993 (refs 8–13). GW170817 can be used as a standard siren14–18, combining the distance inferred purely from the gravitational-wave signal with the recession velocity arising from the electromagnetic data to determine the Hubble constant. This quantity, representing the local expansion rate of the Universe, sets the overall scale of the Universe and is of fundamental importance to cosmology. Our measurements do not require any form of cosmic ‘distance ladder’19; the gravitational-wave analysis directly estimates the luminosity distance out to cosmological scales. Here we report H0 =   kilometres per second per megaparsec, which is consistent with existing measurements20,21, while being completely independent of them.

All-sky search for long-duration gravitational wave transients with initial LIGO

LSC Paper
Abbott, B. P., … Raffai, P., et al. (+934 authors)
Physical Review D, Vol. 93, Issue 4, id. 042005
Publication year: 2016

We present the results of a search for long-duration gravitational wave transients in two sets of data collected by the LIGO Hanford and LIGO Livingston detectors between November 5, 2005 and September 30, 2007, and July 7, 2009 and October 20, 2010, with a total observational time of 283.0 days and 132.9 days, respectively. The search targets gravitational wave transients of duration 10-500 s in a frequency band of 40-1000 Hz, with minimal assumptions about the signal waveform, polarization, source direction, or time of occurrence. All candidate triggers were consistent with the expected background; as a result we set 90% confidence upper limits on the rate of long-duration gravitational wave transients for different types of gravitational wave signals. For signals from black hole accretion disk instabilities, we set upper limits on the source rate density between 3.4 ×1 0-5 and 9.4 ×1 0-4 Mpc-3 yr-1 at 90% confidence. These are the first results from an all-sky search for unmodeled long-duration transient gravitational waves.

Search for long-lived gravitational-wave transients coincident with long gamma-ray bursts

LSC Paper
Aasi, J., … Raffai, P., et al. (+875 authors)
Physical Review D, Vol. 88, Issue 12, p. 122004
Publication year: 2013

Long gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have been linked to extreme core-collapse supernovae from massive stars. Gravitational waves (GW) offer a probe of the physics behind long GRBs. We investigate models of long-lived (˜10-1000s) GW emission associated with the accretion disk of a collapsed star or with its protoneutron star remnant. Using data from LIGO’s fifth science run, and GRB triggers from the Swift experiment, we perform a search for unmodeled long-lived GW transients. Finding no evidence of GW emission, we place 90% confidence-level upper limits on the GW fluence at Earth from long GRBs for three waveforms inspired by a model of GWs from accretion disk instabilities. These limits range from F<3.5ergscm-2 to F<1200ergscm-2, depending on the GRB and on the model, allowing us to probe optimistic scenarios of GW production out to distances as far as ≈33Mpc. Advanced detectors are expected to achieve strain sensitivities 10× better than initial LIGO, potentially allowing us to probe the engines of the nearest long GRBs.

Swift Follow-up Observations of Candidate Gravitational-wave Transient Events

LSC Paper
Evans, P. A., … Raffai, P., et al. (+814 authors)
The Astrophysical Journal Supplement, Vol. 203, Issue 2, p. 14
Publication year: 2012

We present the first multi-wavelength follow-up observations of two candidate gravitational-wave (GW) transient events recorded by LIGO and Virgo in their 2009-2010 science run. The events were selected with low latency by the network of GW detectors (within less than 10 minutes) and their candidate sky locations were observed by the Swift observatory (within 12 hr). Image transient detection was used to analyze the collected electromagnetic data, which were found to be consistent with background. Off-line analysis of the GW data alone has also established that the selected GW events show no evidence of an astrophysical origin; one of them is consistent with background and the other one was a test, part of a “blind injection challenge.” With this work we demonstrate the feasibility of rapid follow-ups of GW transients and establish the sensitivity improvement joint electromagnetic and GW observations could bring. This is a first step toward an electromagnetic follow-up program in the regime of routine detections with the advanced GW instruments expected within this decade. In that regime, multi-wavelength observations will play a significant role in completing the astrophysical identification of GW sources. We present the methods and results from this first combined analysis and discuss its implications in terms of sensitivity for the present and future instruments.

Implementation and testing of the first prompt search for gravitational wave transients with electromagnetic counterparts

LSC Paper
Abadie, J., … Raffai, P., et al. (+813 authors)
Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 539, p. A124
Publication year: 2012

Aims: A transient astrophysical event observed in both gravitational wave (GW) and electromagnetic (EM) channels would yield rich scientific rewards. A first program initiating EM follow-ups to possible transient GW events has been developed and exercised by the LIGO and Virgo community in association with several partners. In this paper, we describe and evaluate the methods used to promptly identify and localize GW event candidates and to request images of targeted sky locations.
Methods: During two observing periods (Dec. 17, 2009 to Jan. 8, 2010 and Sep. 2 to Oct. 20, 2010), a low-latency analysis pipeline was used to identify GW event candidates and to reconstruct maps of possible sky locations. A catalog of nearby galaxies and Milky Way globular clusters was used to select the most promising sky positions to be imaged, and this directional information was delivered to EM observatories with time lags of about thirty minutes. A Monte Carlo simulation has been used to evaluate the low-latency GW pipeline’s ability to reconstruct source positions correctly.
Results: For signals near the detection threshold, our low-latency algorithms often localized simulated GW burst signals to tens of square degrees, while neutron star/neutron star inspirals and neutron star/black hole inspirals were localized to a few hundred square degrees. Localization precision improves for moderately stronger signals. The correct sky location of signals well above threshold and originating from nearby galaxies may be observed with ~50% or better probability with a few pointings of wide-field telescopes.

Search for gravitational-wave bursts associated with gamma-ray bursts using data from LIGO Science Run 5 and Virgo Science Run 1

LSC Paper
Abbott, B. P., … Raffai, P., et al. (+664 authors)
The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 715, p. 1438
Publication year: 2010

We present the results of a search for gravitational-wave bursts (GWBs) associated with 137 gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) that were detected by satellite-based gamma-ray experiments during the fifth LIGO science run and first Virgo science run. The data used in this analysis were collected from 2005 November 4 to 2007 October 1, and most of the GRB triggers were from the Swift satellite. The search uses a coherent network analysis method that takes into account the different locations and orientations of the interferometers at the three LIGO-Virgo sites. We find no evidence for GWB signals associated with this sample of GRBs. Using simulated short-duration (<1 s) waveforms, we set upper limits on the amplitude of gravitational waves associated with each GRB. We also place lower bounds on the distance to each GRB under the assumption of a fixed energy emission in gravitational waves, with a median limit of D ~12 Mpc(E iso GW/0.01 M sun c 2)1/2 for emission at frequencies around 150 Hz, where the LIGO-Virgo detector network has best sensitivity. We present astrophysical interpretations and implications of these results, and prospects for corresponding searches during future LIGO-Virgo runs.