The discovery of the electromagnetic counterpart to the binary neutron star (NS) merger GW170817 has opened the era of gravitational-wave multimessenger astronomy. Rapid identification of the optical/infrared kilonova enabled a precise localization of the source, which paved the way to deep multiwavelength follow-up and its myriad of related science results. Fully exploiting this new territory of exploration requires the acquisition of electromagnetic data from samples of NS mergers and other gravitational-wave sources. After GW170817, the frontier is now to map the diversity of kilonova properties and provide more stringent constraints on the Hubble constant, and enable new tests of fundamental physics. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time can play a key role in this field in the 2020s, when an improved network of gravitational-wave detectors is expected to reach a sensitivity that will enable the discovery of a high rate of merger events involving NSs (∼tens per year) out to distances of several hundred megaparsecs. We design comprehensive target-of-opportunity observing strategies for follow-up of gravitational-wave triggers that will make the Rubin Observatory the premier instrument for discovery and early characterization of NS and other compact-object mergers, and yet unknown classes of gravitational-wave events.
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Finally, we plan to reevaluate the ToO triggering criteria and observing strategies proposed here at the end of O4 and on a yearly base after the start of Rubin operations. The authors acknowledge the support of the Vera C. Rubin Legacy Survey of Space and Time Transient and Variable Stars Science Collaboration, which provided opportunities for collaboration and exchange of ideas and knowledge, and of Rubin Observatory in the creation and implementation of this work. The authors acknowledge the support of the LSST Corporation, which enabled the organization of many workshops and hackathons throughout the cadence optimization process by directing private funding to these activities.
© 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.