RATIR Followup 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.
eprint arXiv:1706.03898


Recently the LIGO scientific collaboration announced detection of the third Gravitational wave (GW) signal (GW170104). Upgrades to advanced-LIGO continue to yield increased sensitivity and opportunities for followup discovery. Identifying the electromagnetic (EM) counterparts to GW events remains a key challenge. Future GW discoveries may come from production channels other than the merging binary black hole (BH) system, which would tend to lack EM emission. To find these potential EM counterparts, the LIGO/Virgo followup community must efficiently search the broad LIGO error region maps. In this paper, we report on the RATIR followup observation strategies and show the results for the trigger G194575. This trigger is not of astrophysical interest; however, is of great interests to the robust design of a followup engine to explore large sky error regions. We discuss the development of an image-subtraction pipeline for the 6-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 $\sim$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 (3 or more bands), considering separately the optical $riZ$ and NIR $YJH$ bands, should result in a false alarm rate $\approx 1\%$ and an efficiency $\approx 90\%$. RATIR's simultaneous optical/NIR observations are expected to yield about one candidate transient in the vast 100 $\mathrm{deg^2}$ LIGO error region for prioritized followup with larger aperture telescopes.