Binary neutron star mergers are important in understanding stellar evolution, the chemical enrichment of the universe via the r-process, the physics of short gamma-ray bursts, gravitational waves, and pulsars. The rates at which these coalescences happen is uncertain, but it can be constrained in different ways. One of those is to search for the optical transients produced at the moment of the merging, called a kilonova, in ongoing supernova (SN) searches. However, until now, only theoretical models for a kilonova light curve were available to estimate their rates. The recent kilonova discovery of AT 2017gfo/DLT17ck gives us the opportunity to constrain the rate of kilonovae using the light curve of a real event. We constrain the rate of binary neutron star mergers using the DLT40 Supernova search and the native AT 2017gfo/DLT17ck light curve obtained with the same telescope and software system. Excluding AT 2017gfo/DLT17ck due to visibility issues, which was only discovered thanks to the aLIGO/aVirgo trigger, no other similar transients were detected during the 13 months of daily cadence observations of ∼2200 nearby (<40 Mpc) galaxies. We find that the rate of BNS mergers is lower than 0.47-0.55 kilonovae per 100 years per 1010 LB⊙(depending on the adopted extinction distribution). In volume, this translates to < 0.99+0.19-0.15 Mpc-3 yr-1 (SNe Ia-like extinction distribution), consistent with previous BNS coalescence rates. Based on our rate limit, and the sensitivity of aLIGO/aVirgo during O2, it is very unlikely that kilonova events are lurking in old pointed galaxy SN search data sets.
- stars: neutron
- supernovae: general