Electromagnetic transients as triggers in searches for gravitational waves from compact binary mergers

Luke Zoltan Kelley, Ilya Mandel, Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz

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48 Citations (Scopus)


The detection of an electromagnetic transient which may originate from a binary neutron star merger can increase the probability that a given segment of data from the LIGO-Virgo ground-based gravitational-wave detector network contains a signal from a binary coalescence. Additional information contained in the electromagnetic signal, such as the sky location or distance to the source, can help rule out false alarms and thus lower the necessary threshold for a detection. Here, we develop a framework for determining how much sensitivity is added to a gravitational-wave search by triggering on an electromagnetic transient. We apply this framework to a variety of relevant electromagnetic transients, from short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) to signatures of r-process heating to optical and radio orphan afterglows. We compute the expected rates of multimessenger observations in the advanced detector era and find that searches triggered on short GRBs - with current high-energy instruments, such as Fermi - and nucleosynthetic "kilonovae" - with future optical surveys, like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope - can boost the number of multimessenger detections by 15% and 40%, respectively, for a binary neutron star progenitor model. Short GRB triggers offer precise merger timing but suffer from detection rates decreased by beaming and the high a priori probability that the source is outside the LIGO-Virgo sensitive volume. Isotropic kilonovae, on the other hand, could be commonly observed within the LIGO-Virgo sensitive volume with an instrument roughly an order of magnitude more sensitive than current optical surveys. We propose that the most productive strategy for making multimessenger gravitational-wave observations is using triggers from future deep, optical all-sky surveys, with characteristics comparable to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which could make as many as ten such coincident observations a year.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123004
Number of pages16
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • neutron stars
  • binary mergers
  • Gravitational waves

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