Research Article

A radio counterpart to a neutron star merger

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1579-1583
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9855

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GROWTH observations of GW170817

The gravitational wave event GW170817 was caused by the merger of two neutron stars (see the Introduction by Smith). In three papers, teams associated with the GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen) project present their observations of the event at wavelengths from x-rays to radio waves. Evans et al. used space telescopes to detect GW170817 in the ultraviolet and place limits on its x-ray flux, showing that the merger generated a hot explosion known as a blue kilonova. Hallinan et al. describe radio emissions generated as the explosion slammed into the surrounding gas within the host galaxy. Kasliwal et al. present additional observations in the optical and infrared and formulate a model for the event involving a cocoon of material expanding at close to the speed of light, matching the data at all observed wavelengths.

Science, this issue p. 1565, p. 1579, p. 1559; see also p. 1554


Gravitational waves have been detected from a binary neutron star merger event, GW170817. The detection of electromagnetic radiation from the same source has shown that the merger occurred in the outskirts of the galaxy NGC 4993, at a distance of 40 megaparsecs from Earth. We report the detection of a counterpart radio source that appears 16 days after the event, allowing us to diagnose the energetics and environment of the merger. The observed radio emission can be explained by either a collimated ultrarelativistic jet, viewed off-axis, or a cocoon of mildly relativistic ejecta. Within 100 days of the merger, the radio light curves will enable observers to distinguish between these models, and the angular velocity and geometry of the debris will be directly measurable by very long baseline interferometry.

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