Hubble Space Telescope Observations of GW170817: Complete Light Curves and the Properties of the Galaxy Merger of NGC 4993

Charles D. Kilpatrick*, Wen Fai Fong, Peter K. Blanchard, Joel Leja, Anya E. Nugent, Antonella Palmese, Kerry Paterson, Tjitske Starkenburg, Kate D. Alexander, Edo Berger, Ryan Thomas Chornock, Aprajita Hajela, Raffaella Margutti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We present the complete set of Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the binary neutron star merger GW170817 and its optical counterpart AT 2017gfo. Including deep template imaging in F814W, F110W, F140W, and F160W at 3.4 yr post-merger, we reanalyze the full light curve of AT 2017gfo across 12 bands from 5 to 1273 rest-frame days after merger. We obtain four new detections of the short γ-ray burst 170817A afterglow from 109 to 170 rest-frame days post-merger. These detections are consistent with the previously observed β = -0.6 spectral index in the afterglow light curve with no evidence for spectral evolution. We also analyze our limits in the context of kilonova afterglow or IR dust echo emission but find that our limits are not constraining for these models. We use the new data to construct deep optical and IR stacks, reaching limits of M = -6.3 to -4.6 mag, to analyze the local environment around AT 2017gfo and low surface brightness features in its host galaxy NGC 4993. We rule out the presence of any globular cluster at the position of AT 2017gfo to 2.3 × 104 L ⊙, including those with the reddest V - H colors. Finally, we analyze the substructure of NGC 4993 in deep residual imaging and find shell features that extend up to 71.″8 (14.2 kpc) from NGC 4993. The shells have a cumulative stellar mass of 6.3 × 108 M ⊙, roughly 2% of NGC 4993, and mass-weighted ages of >3 Gyr. We conclude that it was unlikely that the GW170817 progenitor system formed in the galaxy merger.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number49
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume926
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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