The Binary Neutron Star Event LIGO/Virgo GW170817 160 Days after Merger: Synchrotron Emission across the Electromagnetic Spectrum

R. Margutti, K. D. Alexander, X. Xie, L. Sironi, B. D. Metzger, A. Kathirgamaraju, W. Fong, P. K. Blanchard, E. Berger, A. MacFadyen, D. Giannios, C. Guidorzi, A. Hajela, R. Chornock, P. S. Cowperthwaite, T. Eftekhari, M. Nicholl, V. A. Villar, P. K.G. Williams, J. Zrake

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278 Scopus citations


We report deep Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and Karl J. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) observations of the binary neutron star event GW170817 at t < 160 days after merger. These observations show that GW170817 has been steadily brightening with time and might have now reached its peak, and constrain the emission process as non-thermal synchrotron emission where the cooling frequency ν c is above the X-ray band and the synchrotron frequency ν m is below the radio band. The very simple power-law spectrum extending for eight orders of magnitude in frequency enables the most precise measurement of the index p of the distribution of non-thermal relativistic electrons accelerated by a shock launched by a neutron star (NS)-NS merger to date. We find p = 2.17 0.01, which indicates that radiation from ejecta with Γ ∼ 3-10 dominates the observed emission. While constraining the nature of the emission process, these observations do not constrain the nature of the relativistic ejecta. We employ simulations of explosive outflows launched in NS ejecta clouds to show that the spectral and temporal evolution of the non-thermal emission from GW170817 is consistent with both emission from radially stratified quasi-spherical ejecta traveling at mildly relativistic speeds, and emission from off-axis collimated ejecta characterized by a narrow cone of ultra-relativistic material with slower wings extending to larger angles. In the latter scenario, GW170817 harbored a normal short gamma-ray burst (SGRB) directed away from our line of sight. Observations at t ≤ 200 days are unlikely to settle the debate, as in both scenarios the observed emission is effectively dominated by radiation from mildly relativistic material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL18
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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