A Galaxy-targeted Search for the Optical Counterpart of the Candidate NS-BH Merger S190814bv with Magellan

S. Gomez*, G. Hosseinzadeh, P. S. Cowperthwaite, V. A. Villar, E. Berger, T. Gardner, K. D. Alexander, P. K. Blanchard, R. Chornock, M. R. Drout, T. Eftekhari, W. Fong, K. Gill, R. Margutti, M. Nicholl, K. Paterson, P. K.G. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


On 2019 August 14 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo gravitational wave interferometer announced the detection of a binary merger, S190814bv, with a low false alarm rate of about 1 in 1.6 1025 yr, a distance of 267 52 Mpc, a 90% (50%) localization region of about 23 (5) deg2, and a probability of being a neutron star-black hole (NS-BH) merger of >99%. The LIGO/Virgo Collaboration (LVC) defines NS-BH such that the lighter binary member has a mass of <3 M o&dot; and the more massive one has >5 M o&dot;, and this classification is in principle consistent with a BH-BH merger depending on the actual upper mass cutoff for neutron stars. Additionally, the LVC designated a probability that the merger led to matter outside the final BH remnant of <1%, suggesting that an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart is unlikely. Here we report our optical follow-up observations of S190814bv using the Magellan Baade 6.5 m telescope to target all 96 galaxies in the Galaxy List for the Advanced Detector Era catalog within the 50% localization volume (representing about 70% of the integrated luminosity within this region). No counterpart was identified to a median 3σ limiting magnitude of i = 22.2 (M i ≈ -14.9 mag), comparable to the brightness of the optical counterpart of the binary neutron star merger GW170817 at the distance of S190814bv; similarly, we can rule out an on-axis jet typical of short GRBs. However, we cannot rule out other realistic models, such as a kilonova with only ∼0.01 M o&dot; of lanthanide-rich material, or an off-axis jet with a viewing angle of θ obs ⪆ 15 .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL55
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 20 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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