Continued Radio Observations of GW170817 3.5 yr Post-merger

Arvind Balasubramanian, Alessandra Corsi, Kunal P. Mooley, Murray Brightman, Gregg Hallinan, Kenta Hotokezaka, David L. Kaplan, Davide Lazzati, Eric J. Murphy

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We present new radio observations of the binary neutron star merger GW170817 carried out with the Karl G. Jansky Very large Array (VLA) more than 3 yr after the merger. Our combined data set is derived by coadding more than ≈32 hr of VLA time on-source, and as such provides the deepest combined observation (rms sensitivity ≈0.99 μJy) of the GW170817 field obtained to date at 3 GHz. We find no evidence for a late-time radio rebrightening at a mean epoch of t ≈ 1200 days since merger, in contrast to a ≈2.1σ excess observed at X-ray wavelengths at the same mean epoch. Our measurements agree with expectations from the post-peak decay of the radio afterglow of the GW170817 structured jet. Using these results, we constrain the parameter space of models that predict a late-time radio rebrightening possibly arising from the high-velocity tail of the GW170817 kilonova ejecta, which would dominate the radio and X-ray emission years after the merger (once the structured jet afterglow fades below detection level). Our results point to a steep energy-speed distribution of the kilonova ejecta (with energy-velocity power-law index α ⪆ 5). We suggest possible implications of our radio analysis, when combined with the recent tentative evidence for a late-time rebrightening in the X-rays, and highlight the need for continued radio-to-X-ray monitoring to test different scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL20
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 10 2021


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