3 years ago

Implications of the radio and X-ray emission that followed GW170817.

Tsvi Piran, Ehud Nakar

The radio and X-rays that followed GW170817 are unlike any GRB afterglow observed before. Instead, their gradual rise resemble the radio flare predicted long ago to follow binary neutron star mergers [Nakar 2011]. Considering a blast wave moving with a Lorentz factor $\Gamma$, we show that an off-axis observer, namely an observer at $\theta_{obs}> 1/\Gamma$, sees a light curve rising faster than $F_\nu \propto t^3$. Therefore, the observed rise, $F_\nu \propto t^{0.78}$, implies that at all times we have seen on-axis emission. Namely, the emitting matter was within $\theta_{obs}<1/\Gamma$ at the time of observations (even if it was off-axis beforehand). The observations tightly constrain the Lorentz factor: $\Gamma \sim (1.5-7) (t/10 ~{\rm day})^{-0.21}$. The isotropic equivalent energy in the observed region is $E_{iso} \sim 10^{49} (t/10 ~{\rm day})^{1.3}$ erg. The energy increase can arise from a slower material moving behind the blast wave or from a matter moving at larger angles that has slowed down. While such a structure can have different origins, the only physically motivated one proposed so far, is the interaction of a relativistic jet with the ejecta and the resulting cocoon. The jet could have been choked or successful. In the latter case it has produced a short GRB pointing elsewhere (this successful jet-cocoon system is sometimes called a "structured jet"). Although circumstantial evidence disfavors a successful jet, the fate of the jet (choked or successful) cannot be decisively determined from current observations. Unfortunately, the light curve alone may not be sufficient to resolve this question, since both chocked and successful jets can lead to a gradual rise to a peak, followed by a rapid decay. Therefore, a decay of the light curve, even if observed in the near future, won't necessitate the existence of a successful jet.

Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1801.09712

DOI: arXiv:1801.09712v1

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