Pan-STARRS and PESSTO search for an optical counterpart to the LIGO gravitational-wave source GW150914

S. J. Smartt, K. C. Chambers, K. W. Smith, M. E. Huber, D. R. Young, E. Cappellaro, D. E. Wright, M. Coughlin, A. S.B. Schultz, L. Denneau, H. Flewelling, A. Heinze, E. A. Magnier, N. Primak, A. Rest, A. Sherstyuk, B. Stalder, C. W. Stubbs, J. Tonry, C. WatersM. Willman, J. P. Anderson, C. Baltay, M. T. Botticella, H. Campbell, M. Dennefeld, T. W. Chen, M. Della Valle, N. Elias-Rosa, M. Fraser, C. Inserra, E. Kankare, R. Kotak, T. Kupfer, J. Harmanen, L. Galbany, A. Gal-Yam, L. Le Guillou, J. D. Lyman, K. Maguire, A. Mitra, M. Nicholl, F. Olivares E, D. Rabinowitz, A. Razza, J. Sollerman, M. Smith, G. Terreran, S. Valenti, B. Gibson, T. Goggia

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41 Scopus citations


We searched for an optical counterpart to the first gravitational-wave source discovered by LIGO (GW150914), using a combination of the Pan-STARRS1 wide-field telescope and the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO) spectroscopic follow-up programme. As the final LIGO sky maps changed during analysis, the total probability of the source being spatially coincident with our fields was finally only 4.2 per cent. Therefore, we discuss our results primarily as a demonstration of the survey capability of Pan-STARRS and spectroscopic capability of PESSTO. We mapped out 442 deg2 of the northern sky region of the initial map. We discovered 56 astrophysical transients over a period of 41 d from the discovery of the source. Of these, 19 were spectroscopically classified and a further 13 have host galaxy redshifts. All transients appear to be fairly normal supernovae (SNe) and AGN variability and none is obviously linked with GW150914. We illustrate the sensitivity of our survey by defining parametrized light curves with time-scales of 4, 20 and 40 d and use the sensitivity of the Pan-STARRS1 images to set limits on the luminosities of possible sources. The Pan-STARRS1 images reach limiting magnitudes of iP1 = 19.2, 20.0 and 20.8, respectively, for the three time-scales. For long time-scale parametrized light curves (with full width half-maximum ≃40 d), we set upper limits of Mi ≥ -17.2+1.4 -0.9 if the distance to GW150914 is DL = 400 ± 200 Mpc. The number of Type Ia SN we find in the survey is similar to that expected from the cosmic SN rate, indicating a reasonably complete efficiency in recovering SN like transients out to DL = 400 ± 200 Mpc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4094-4116
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 11 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Pan-STARRS is supported by the University of Hawaii and the NASA's Planetary Defense Office under Grant no. NNX14AM74G. The Pan-STARRS-LIGO effort is in collaboration with the LIGO Consortium and supported by Queen's University Belfast. The Pan-STARRS1 Sky Surveys have been made possible through contributions by the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max Planck Society and its participating institutes, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, The Johns Hopkins University, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, the Queen's University Belfast, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network Incorporated, the National CentralUniversity of Taiwan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the NASA under Grant no. NNX08AR22G issued through the Planetary Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the National Science Foundation Grant no. AST-1238877, the University of Maryland, Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE), and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This work is based (in part) on observations collected at the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern hemisphere, Chile as part of PESSTO ESO programmes 188.D-3003, 191.D-0935. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the Palomar Observatory, California Institute of Technology. SJS acknowledges funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's SeventhFramework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement no. [291222] and STFC grants ST/I001123/1 and ST/L000709/1. MF is supported by the European Union FP7 programme through ERC grant number 320360. KM acknowledges support from the STFC through an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship FOE acknowledges support from FONDECYT through postdoctoral grant 3140326. This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED) which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the NASA and data products from the 2MASS, which is a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/California Institute of Technology, funded by the NASA and the National Science Foundation

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.


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