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Probing binary neutron star mergers in dense environments using afterglow counterparts

Duque, Raphaël and Beniamini, Paz and Daigne, Frédéric and Mochkovitch, Robert (2020) Probing binary neutron star mergers in dense environments using afterglow counterparts. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 639 . Art. No. A15. ISSN 0004-6361.

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The only binary neutron star merger gravitational wave event with detected electromagnetic counterparts recorded to date is GRB170817A. This merger occurred in a rarefied medium with a density smaller than 10⁻³ − 10⁻² cm⁻³. Since kicks are imparted to neutron star binaries upon formation, and due to their long delay times before merger, such low-density circum-merger media are generally expected. However, there is some indirect evidence for fast-merging or low-kick binaries, which would coalesce in denser environments. Nonetheless, present astronomical data are largely inconclusive on the possibility of these high-density mergers. We describe a method to directly probe this hypothetical population of high-density mergers through multi-messenger observations of binary neutron star merger afterglows, exploiting the high sensitivity of these signals to the density of the merger environment. This method is based on a sample of merger afterglows that has yet to be collected. Its constraining power is large, even with a small sample of events. We discuss the method’s limitations and applicability. In the upcoming era of third-generation gravitational wave detectors, this method’s potential will be fully realized as it will allow us to probe mergers that occurred soon after the peak of cosmic star formation, provided the follow-up campaigns are able to locate the sources.

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URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Beniamini, Paz0000-0001-7833-1043
Alternate Title:Probing high-density binary neutron star mergers with afterglow counterparts
Additional Information:© 2020 R. Duque et al. Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Received 15 November 2019; Accepted 8 May 2020; Published online 02 July 2020. The authors thank the anonymous referee for constructive remarks, and thank L. Resmi and S. Vergani for useful discussions. R. Duque, F. Daigne and R. Mochkovitch acknowledge financial support from the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES). P. Beniamini’s research was funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMF5076.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES)UNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationGBMF5076
Subject Keywords:gravitational waves – gamma-ray burst: general – stars: neutron – galaxies: ISM
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200702-104734399
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Official Citation:Probing binary neutron star mergers in dense environments using afterglow counterparts. Raphaël Duque, Paz Beniamini, Frédéric Daigne and Robert Mochkovitch. A&A, 639 (2020) A15; DOI:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:104206
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:02 Jul 2020 17:57
Last Modified:02 Jul 2020 17:57

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