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A search for an optical counterpart to the gravitational-wave event GW151226

Smartt, S. J., Chambers, K. C., Smith, K. W., Huber, M. E., Young, D. R., Chen, T.-W., Inserra, C., Wright, D. E., Coughlin, M., Denneau, L., Flewelling, H., Heinze, A., Jerkstrand, A., Magnier, E. A., Maguire, K., Mueller, B., Rest, A., Sherstyuk, A., Stalder, B., Schultz, A. S. B., Stubbs, C. W., Tonry, J., Waters, C., Wainscoat, R. J., Valle, M. Della, Dennefeld, M., Dimitriadis, G., Firth, R. E., Fraser, M., Frohmaier, C., Gal-Yam, A., Harmanen, J., Kankare, E., Kotak, R., Kromer, M., Mandel, I., Sollerman, J., Gibson, B., Primak, N. and Willman, M. 2016. A search for an optical counterpart to the gravitational-wave event GW151226. Astrophysical Journal Letters 827 (2) , L40. 10.3847/2041-8205/827/2/L40

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Abstract

We present a search for an electromagnetic counterpart of the gravitational-wave source GW151226. Using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope we mapped out 290 square degrees in the optical i P1 filter, starting 11.5 hr after the LIGO information release and lasting for an additional 28 days. The first observations started 49.5 hr after the time of the GW151226 detection. We typically reached sensitivity limits of i P1 = 20.3–20.8 and covered 26.5% of the LIGO probability skymap. We supplemented this with ATLAS survey data, reaching 31% of the probability region to shallower depths of m sime 19. We found 49 extragalactic transients (that are not obviously active galactic nuclei), including a faint transient in a galaxy at 7 Mpc (a luminous blue variable outburst) plus a rapidly decaying M-dwarf flare. Spectral classification of 20 other transient events showed them all to be supernovae. We found an unusual transient, PS15dpn, with an explosion date temporally coincident with GW151226, that evolved into a type Ibn supernova. The redshift of the transient is secure at z = 0.1747 ± 0.0001 and we find it unlikely to be linked, since the luminosity distance has a negligible probability of being consistent with that of GW151226. In the 290 square degrees surveyed we therefore do not find a likely counterpart. However we show that our survey strategy would be sensitive to NS–NS mergers producing kilonovae at D L lesssim 100 Mpc, which is promising for future LIGO/Virgo searches.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: American Astronomical Society
ISSN: 2041-8205
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 January 2019
Date of Acceptance: 19 August 2016
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2019 10:32
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/118710

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