Article open access publication

Light curves of the neutron star merger GW170817/SSS17a: Implications for r-process nucleosynthesis

Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), ISSN 0036-8075

Volume 358, 6370, 2017

DOI:10.1126/science.aaq0049, Dimensions: pub.1092247866, PMID: 29038375,



  1. (1) Carnegie Observatories, grid.432988.c
  2. (2) University of Hawaii at Manoa, grid.410445.0
  3. (3) University of California, Santa Cruz, grid.205975.c
  4. (4) Las Campanas Observatory, grid.440392.8
  5. (5) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, grid.184769.5
  6. (6) University of California, Berkeley, grid.47840.3f
  7. (7) Pennsylvania State University, grid.29857.31
  8. (8) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  9. (9) Johns Hopkins University, grid.21107.35
  10. (10) Space Telescope Science Institute, grid.419446.a
  11. (11) California Institute of Technology, grid.20861.3d
  12. (12) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grid.116068.8
  13. (13) Diego Portales University, grid.412193.c
  14. (14) Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, grid.494597.2
  15. (15) University of Notre Dame, grid.131063.6
  16. (16) National Autonomous University of Mexico, grid.9486.3
  17. (17) University of La Serena, grid.19208.32
  18. (18) National Research Council Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, 5071 West Saanich Road, Victoria, British Columbia V9E 2E7, Canada.
  19. (19) University of Victoria, grid.143640.4
  20. (20) University of Valparaíso, grid.412185.b
  21. (21) Texas A&M University, grid.264756.4
  22. (22) Catholic University of the North, grid.8049.5
  23. (23) Millennium Institute of Astrophysics, grid.450287.c
  24. (24) University of Sydney, grid.1013.3


On 17 August 2017, gravitational waves (GWs) were detected from a binary neutron star merger, GW170817, along with a coincident short gamma-ray burst, GRB 170817A. An optical transient source, Swope Supernova Survey 17a (SSS17a), was subsequently identified as the counterpart of this event. We present ultraviolet, optical, and infrared light curves of SSS17a extending from 10.9 hours to 18 days postmerger. We constrain the radioactively powered transient resulting from the ejection of neutron-rich material. The fast rise of the light curves, subsequent decay, and rapid color evolution are consistent with multiple ejecta components of differing lanthanide abundance. The late-time light curve indicates that SSS17a produced at least ~0.05 solar masses of heavy elements, demonstrating that neutron star mergers play a role in rapid neutron capture (r-process) nucleosynthesis in the universe.

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Times Cited: 223

Field Citation Ratio (FCR): 128.13

Relative Citation ratio (RCR): 1.18

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