Data-driven Expectations for Electromagnetic Counterpart Searches Based on LIGO/Virgo Public Alerts

Polina Petrov, Leo P. Singer, Michael W. Coughlin, Vishwesh Kumar, Mouza Almualla, Shreya Anand, Mattia Bulla, Tim Dietrich, Francois Foucart, Nidhal Guessoum

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62 Scopus citations


Searches for electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational-wave signals have redoubled since the first detection in 2017 of a binary neutron star merger with a gamma-ray burst, optical/infrared kilonova, and panchromatic afterglow. Yet, one LIGO/Virgo observing run later, there has not yet been a second, secure identification of an electromagnetic counterpart. This is not surprising given that the localization uncertainties of events in LIGO and Virgo's third observing run, O3, were much larger than predicted. We explain this by showing that improvements in data analysis that now allow LIGO/Virgo to detect weaker and hence more poorly localized events have increased the overall number of detections, of which well-localized, gold-plated events make up a smaller proportion overall. We present simulations of the next two LIGO/Virgo/KAGRA observing runs, O4 and O5, that are grounded in the statistics of O3 public alerts. To illustrate the significant impact that the updated predictions can have, we study the follow-up strategy for the Zwicky Transient Facility. Realistic and timely forecasting of gravitational-wave localization accuracy is paramount given the large commitments of telescope time and the need to prioritize which events are followed up. We include a data release of our simulated localizations as a public proposal planning resource for astronomers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 10 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the . Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI. National Science Foundation (NSF) NSF1757388 National Science Foundation (NSF) PHY-2010970 Swedish Research Council 2020-03330 NASA ∣ GSFC ∣ Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) Multimessenger Astro Connection STG NASA ∣ GSFC ∣ Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) Swift yes � 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

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© 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society..


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