RATIR Follow-up of LIGO/Virgo Gravitational Wave Events

Golkhou, V. Zach; Butler, Nathaniel R.; Strausbaugh, Robert; Troja, Eleonora; Kutyrev, Alexander; Lee, William H.; Román-Zúñiga, Carlos G.; Watson, Alan M.
The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 857, Issue 2, article id. 81, 10 pp. (2018).


We have recently witnessed the first multi-messenger detection of colliding neutron stars through gravitational waves (GWs) and electromagnetic (EM) waves (GW 170817) thanks to the joint efforts of LIGO/Virgo and Space/Ground-based telescopes. In this paper, we report on the RATIR follow-up observation strategies and show the results for the trigger G194575. This trigger is not of astrophysical interest; however, it is of great interest to the robust design of a follow-up engine to explore large sky-error regions. We discuss the development of an image-subtraction pipeline for the six-color, optical/NIR imaging camera RATIR. Considering a two-band (i and r) campaign in the fall of 2015, we find that the requirement of simultaneous detection in both bands leads to a factor ∼10 reduction in false alarm rate, which can be further reduced using additional bands. We also show that the performance of our proposed algorithm is robust to fluctuating observing conditions, maintaining a low false alarm rate with a modest decrease in system efficiency that can be overcome utilizing repeat visits. Expanding our pipeline to search for either optical or NIR detections (three or more bands), considering separately the optical riZ and NIR YJH bands, should result in a false alarm rate ≈1% and an efficiency ≈90%. RATIR’s simultaneous optical/NIR observations are expected to yield about one candidate transient in the vast 100 deg2 LIGO error region for prioritized follow-up with larger aperture telescopes.