Kilonova Emission from Black Hole–Neutron Star Mergers. II. Luminosity Function and Implications for Target-of-opportunity Observations of Gravitational-wave Triggers and Blind Searches

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The Astrophysical Journal

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We present detailed simulations of the kilonova and gamma-ray burst (GRB) afterglow and kilonova luminosity function from black hole–neutron star (BH–NS) mergers, and discuss the detectability of an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart in connection with gravitational wave (GW) detections, GW-triggered target-of-opportunity observations, and time-domain blind searches. The predicted absolute magnitude of BH–NS kilonovae at 0.5 days after the merger falls in the range [−10, −15.5]. The simulated luminosity function contains potential information on the viewing-angle distribution of the anisotropic kilonova emission. We simulate the GW detection rates, detectable distances, and signal duration for future networks of 2nd/2.5th/3rd generation GW detectors. BH–NSs tend to produce brighter kilonovae and afterglows if the BH has a higher aligned spin, and a less massive NS with a stiffer equation of state. The detectability of kilonovae is especially sensitive to the BH spin. If BHs typically have low spins, the BH–NS EM counterparts are hard to discover. For 2nd generation GW detector networks, a limiting magnitude of mlimit ∼ 23–24 mag is required to detect kilonovae even if high BH spin is assumed. Thus, a plausible explanation for the lack of BH–NS-associated kilonova detection during LIGO/Virgo O3 is that either there is no EM counterpart (plunging events) or the current follow-ups are too shallow. These observations still have the chance to detect the on-axis jet afterglow associated with a short GRB or an orphan afterglow. Follow-up observations can detect possible associated short GRB afterglows, from which kilonova signatures may be studied. For time-domain observations, a high-cadence search in redder filters is recommended to detect more BH–NS-associated kilonovae and afterglows.


Stars, Interstellar Medium and the Galaxy



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