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, 551 (7678), 67-70

Spectroscopic Identification of R-Process Nucleosynthesis in a Double Neutron-Star Merger

E Pian  1 P D'Avanzo  2 S Benetti  3 M Branchesi  4 E BrocatoS Campana  2 E Cappellaro  3 S Covino  2 V D'Elia  5 J P U Fynbo  6 F Getman  7 G Ghirlanda  2 G Ghisellini  2 A Grado  7 G Greco  8   9 J Hjorth  6 C Kouveliotou  10 A Levan  11 L Limatola  7 D Malesani  6 P A Mazzali  12   13 A Melandri  2 P Møller  14 L Nicastro  1 E Palazzi  1 S PiranomonteA Rossi  1 O S Salafia  2   15 J Selsing  6 G Stratta  8   9 M Tanaka  16 N R Tanvir  17 L Tomasella  3 D Watson  6 S Yang  18   19 L Amati  1 L A AntonelliS Ascenzi  20   21 M G Bernardini  2   22 M Boër  23 F Bufano  24 A Bulgarelli  1 M Capaccioli  7   25 P CasellaA J Castro-Tirado  26 E Chassande-Mottin  27 R Ciolfi  3   28 C M Copperwheat  12 M Dadina  1 G De Cesare  1 A Di PaolaY Z Fan  29 B Gendre  30 G GiuffridaA GiuntaL K Hunt  31 G L IsraelZ-P Jin  29 M M Kasliwal  32 S Klose  33 M LisiF Longo  34 E Maiorano  1 M Mapelli  3   35 N Masetti  1   36 L Nava  2   37 B Patricelli  38 D Perley  12 A Pescalli  2   39 T Piran  40 A Possenti  41 L PuloneM Razzano  38 R Salvaterra  42 P Schipani  7 M Spera  3 A Stamerra  38   43 L StellaG Tagliaferri  2 V TestaE Troja  44 M Turatto  3 S D Vergani  2   45 D Vergani  1
Affiliations

Spectroscopic Identification of R-Process Nucleosynthesis in a Double Neutron-Star Merger

E Pian et al. Nature.

Abstract

The merger of two neutron stars is predicted to give rise to three major detectable phenomena: a short burst of γ-rays, a gravitational-wave signal, and a transient optical-near-infrared source powered by the synthesis of large amounts of very heavy elements via rapid neutron capture (the r-process). Such transients, named 'macronovae' or 'kilonovae', are believed to be centres of production of rare elements such as gold and platinum. The most compelling evidence so far for a kilonova was a very faint near-infrared rebrightening in the afterglow of a short γ-ray burst at redshift z = 0.356, although findings indicating bluer events have been reported. Here we report the spectral identification and describe the physical properties of a bright kilonova associated with the gravitational-wave source GW170817 and γ-ray burst GRB 170817A associated with a galaxy at a distance of 40 megaparsecs from Earth. Using a series of spectra from ground-based observatories covering the wavelength range from the ultraviolet to the near-infrared, we find that the kilonova is characterized by rapidly expanding ejecta with spectral features similar to those predicted by current models. The ejecta is optically thick early on, with a velocity of about 0.2 times light speed, and reaches a radius of about 50 astronomical units in only 1.5 days. As the ejecta expands, broad absorption-like lines appear on the spectral continuum, indicating atomic species produced by nucleosynthesis that occurs in the post-merger fast-moving dynamical ejecta and in two slower (0.05 times light speed) wind regions. Comparison with spectral models suggests that the merger ejected 0.03 to 0.05 solar masses of material, including high-opacity lanthanides.

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Abbott BP, et al. Living Rev Relativ. 2018;21(1):3. doi: 10.1007/s41114-018-0012-9. Epub 2018 Apr 26. Living Rev Relativ. 2018. PMID: 29725242 Free PMC article. Review.

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