Research Article

Swift and NuSTAR observations of GW170817: Detection of a blue kilonova

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Science  16 Oct 2017:
eaap9580
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9580

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Abstract

With the first direct detection of merging black holes in 2015, the era of gravitational wave (GW) astrophysics began. A complete picture of compact object mergers, however, requires the detection of an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart. We report ultraviolet (UV) and x-ray observations by Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope ARray (NuSTAR) of the EM counterpart of the binary neutron star merger GW 170817. The bright, rapidly fading ultraviolet emission indicates a high mass (≈ 0.03 solar masses) wind-driven outflow with moderate electron fraction (Ye ≈ 0.27). Combined with the x-ray limits, we favor an observer viewing angle of ≈30° away from the orbital rotation axis, which avoids both obscuration from the heaviest elements in the orbital plane and a direct view of any ultra-relativistic, highly collimated ejecta (a γ-ray burst afterglow).

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