Research Article

Early spectra of the gravitational wave source GW170817: Evolution of a neutron star merger

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Science  16 Oct 2017:
eaaq0186
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0186

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Abstract

On 17 August 2017, Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a) was discovered as the optical counterpart of the binary neutron star gravitational wave event GW170817. We report time-series spectroscopy of SSS17a from 11.75 hours until 8.5 days after merger. Over the first hour of observations the ejecta rapidly expanded and cooled. Applying blackbody fits to the spectra, we measure the photosphere cooling from Embedded Image K to Embedded Image K, and determine a photospheric velocity of roughly 30% of the speed of light. The spectra of SSS17a begin displaying broad features after 1.46 days, and evolve qualitatively over each subsequent day, with distinct blue (early-time) and red (late-time) components. The late-time component is consistent with theoretical models of r-process-enriched neutron star ejecta, whereas the blue component requires high velocity, lanthanide-free material.

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