GROWTH on S190426c: Real-time Search for a Counterpart to the Probable Neutron Star-Black Hole Merger using an Automated Difference Imaging Pipeline for DECam

Daniel A. Goldstein, Igor Andreoni, Peter E. Nugent, Mansi M. Kasliwal, Michael W. Coughlin, Shreya Anand, Joshua S. Bloom, Jorge Martínez-Palomera, Keming Zhang, Tomás Ahumada, Ashot Bagdasaryan, Jeff Cooke, Kishalay De, Dmitry A. Duev, U. Christoffer Fremling, Pradip Gatkine, Matthew Graham, Eran O. Ofek, Leo P. Singer, Lin Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The discovery of a transient kilonova following the gravitational-wave (GW) event GW170817 highlighted the critical need for coordinated rapid and wide-field observations, inference, and follow-up across the electromagnetic spectrum. In the southern hemisphere, the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the Blanco 4 m telescope is well suited to this task, as it is able to cover wide fields quickly while still achieving the depths required to find kilonovae like the one accompanying GW170817 to ∼500 Mpc, the binary neutron star (NS) horizon distance for current generation of LIGO/Virgo collaboration (LVC) interferometers. Here, as part of the multi-facility follow-up by the Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen collaboration, we describe the observations and automated data movement, data reduction, candidate discovery, and vetting pipeline of our target-of-opportunity DECam observations of S190426c, the first possible NS-black hole merger detected in GWs. Starting 7.5 hr after S190426c, over 11.28 hr of observations, we imaged an area of 525 deg2 (r band) and 437 deg2 (z band); this was 16.3% of the total original localization probability, and nearly all of the probability visible from the southern hemisphere. The machine-learning-based pipeline was optimized for fast turnaround, delivering transients for human vetting within 17 minutes, on average, of shutter closure. We reported nine promising counterpart candidates 2.5 hr before the end of our observations. One hour after our data-taking ended (roughly 20 hr after the announcement of S190426c), LVC released a refined skymap that reduced the probability coverage of our observations to 8.0%, demonstrating a critical need for localization updates on shorter (∼hour) timescales. Our observations yielded no detection of a bona fide counterpart to m z = 21.7 and m r = 22.2 at the 5σ level of significance, consistent with the refined LVC positioning. We view these observations and rapid inferencing as an important real-world test for this novel end-to-end wide-field pipeline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL7
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
D.A.G. and I.A. gratefully acknowledge Kathy Vivas, Steve Heathcote, and the NOAO staff for facilitating these target-ofopportunity observations. This research used resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility operated under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. D.A.G. acknowledges support from Hubble Fellowship grant HST-HF2-51408.001-A. Support for Program number HST-HF2-51408.001-A is provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Incorporated, under NASA contract NAS5-26555. P.E.N. acknowledges support from the DOE through DE-FOA-0001088, Analytical Modeling for Extreme-Scale Computing Environments. E.O.O. is grateful for support by a grant from the Israeli Ministry of Science, ISF, Minerva, BSF, BSF transformative program, and the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and The Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 1829/12). M.W.C. is supported by the David and Ellen Lee Postdoctoral Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. J. S.B., J.M.-P., and K.Z. are partially supported by a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Data-Driven Discovery grant. J.C. is supported in part by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), CE170100004. This work was supported by the GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen) project funded by the National Science Foundation under PIRE grant No. 1545949. GROWTH is a collaborative project among California Institute of Technology (USA), University of Maryland College Park (USA), University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (USA), Texas Tech University (USA), San Diego State University (USA), University of Washington (USA), Los Alamos National Laboratory (USA), Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan), National Central University (Taiwan), Indian Institute of Astrophysics (India), Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (India), Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), The Oskar Klein Centre at Stockholm University (Sweden), Humboldt University (Germany), Liverpool John Moores University (UK), University of Sydney (Australia) and Swinburne University of Technology (Australia). This project used public archival data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES). Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, the Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics at the Ohio State University, the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos, Funda??o Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo ? Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cient?fico e Tecnol?gico and the Minist?rio da Ci?ncia, Tecnologia e Inova??o, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and the Collaborating Institutions in the Dark Energy Survey. The Collaborating Institutions are Argonne National Laboratory, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Cambridge, Centro de Investigaciones Energ?ticas, Medioambientales y Tecnol?gicas-Madrid, the University of Chicago, University College London, the DESBrazil Consortium, the University of Edinburgh, the Eidgen?ssische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Z?rich, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, the Institut de Ci?ncies de l'Espai (IEEC/CSIC), the Institut de F?sica d'Altes Energies, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Ludwig-Maximilians Universit?t M?nchen and the associated Excellence Cluster Universe, the University of Michigan, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the University of Nottingham, The Ohio State University, the OzDES Membership Consortium, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Portsmouth, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University, the University of Sussex, and Texas A&M University. Based in part on observations at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The Legacy Surveys consist of three individual and complementary projects: the Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey (DECaLS; NOAO Proposal ID 2014B-0404; PIs: David Schlegel and Arjun Dey), the Beijing-Arizona Sky Survey (BASS; NOAO Proposal ID # 2015A-0801; PIs: Zhou Xu and Xiaohui Fan), and the Mayall z-band Legacy Survey (MzLS; NOAO Proposal ID # 2016A-0453; PI: Arjun Dey). DECaLS, BASS, and MzLS together include data obtained, respectively, at the Blanco telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO); the Bok telescope, Steward Observatory, University of Arizona; and the Mayall telescope, Kitt Peak National Observatory, NOAO. The Legacy Surveys project is honored to be permitted to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du'ag (Kitt Peak), a mountain with particular significance to the Tohono O'odham Nation. NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • gravitational waves
  • stars: black holes
  • stars: neutron
  • surveys

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