Observations of the GRB Afterglow ATLAS17aeu and Its Possible Association with GW 170104

B. Stalder, J. Tonry, S. J. Smartt, M. Coughlin, K. C. Chambers, C. W. Stubbs, T. W. Chen, E. Kankare, K. W. Smith, L. Denneau, A. Sherstyuk, A. Heinze, H. Weiland, A. Rest, D. R. Young, M. E. Huber, H. Flewelling, T. Lowe, E. A. Magnier, A. S.B. SchultzC. Waters, R. Wainscoat, M. Willman, D. E. Wright, J. Chu, D. Sanders, C. Inserra, K. Maguire, R. Kotak

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We report the discovery and multiwavelength data analysis of the peculiar optical transient, ATLAS17aeu. This transient was identified in the sky map of the LIGO gravitational wave event GW 170104 by our ATLAS and Pan-STARRS coverage. ATLAS17aeu was discovered 23.1 hr after GW 170104 and rapidly faded over the next three nights, with a spectrum revealing a blue featureless continuum. The transient was also detected as a fading X-ray source by Swift and in the radio at 6 and 15 GHz. The gamma-ray burst GRB 170105A was detected by three satellites 19.04 hr after GW 170104 and 4.10 hr before our first optical detection. We analyze the multiwavelength fluxes in the context of the known GRB population and discuss the observed sky rates of GRBs and their afterglows. We find it statistically likely that ATLAS17aeu is an afterglow associated with GRB 170105A, with a chance coincidence ruled out at the 99% confidence or 2.6σ. A long, soft GRB within a redshift range of 1 ≲ z ≲ 2.9 would be consistent with all the observed multiwavelength data. The Poisson probability of a chance occurrence of GW 170104 and ATLAS17aeu is p = 0.04. This is the probability of a chance coincidence in 2D sky location and in time. These observations indicate that ATLAS17aeu is plausibly a normal GRB afterglow at significantly higher redshift than the distance constraint for GW 170104 and therefore a chance coincidence. However, if a redshift of the faint host were to place it within the GW 170104 distance range, then physical association with GW 170104 should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number149
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M.W.C. is supported by National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under NSF grant number DGE 1144152. K.M. acknowledges support from the STFC through an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • gamma-ray burst: general
  • gamma-ray burst: individual (GRB 170105)
  • gravitational waves
  • stars: black holes


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