A search for Kilonovae in the Dark Energy Survey

Z. Doctor, Richard Kessler, H. Y. Chen, B. Farr, David A. Finley, Ryan J. Foley, Daniel A. Goldstein, D. E. Holz, A. G. Kim, E. Morganson, Masao Sako, D. Scolnic, M. Smith, Marcelle Soares-Santos, H. Spinka, T. M. C. Abbott, Filipe B. Abdalla, S. Allam, J. Annis, Keith BechtolAurelien Benoit-Levy, Emmanuel Bertin, David Brooks, Elizabeth J. Buckley-Geer, D. L. Burke, Aurelio Carnero Rosell, Matias Carrasco Kind, Jorge Carretero, Carlos E. Cunha, C. B. DAndrea, Luiz A. N. da Costa, Darren L. Depoy, Sunali Desai, H. Thomas Diehl, A. Drlica-Wagner, Tim F. Eifler, Josh Frieman, Juan Garcia-Bellido, E. Gaztanaga, David W. Gerdes, Robert A. Gruendl, J. Gschwend, Gaston R. Gutierrez, David J. James, E. Krause, Kyler Kuehn, Nikolay Kuropatkin, Ofer Lahav, T. S. Li, Marcos Lima, Marcio Antonio Geimba Maia, M. March, Jennifer L. Marshall, F. Menanteau, Ramon Miquel, Eric H., Jr. Neilsen, R. C. Nichol, B. D. Nord, Andres A. Plazas, A. Kathy Romer, E. J. Sanchez, Vic Scarpine, Michael Schubnell, Ignacio Sevilla-Noarbe, R. C. Smith, Flavia Sobreira, Eric Suchyta, Molly E. C. Swanson, Gregory Tarle, W. Wester

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The coalescence of a binary neutron star pair is expected to produce gravitational waves (GW) and electromagnetic radiation, both of which may be detectable with currently available instruments. We describe a search for a predicted r-process optical transient from these mergers, dubbed the "kilonova" (KN), using griz broadband data from the Dark Energy Survey Supernova Program (DES-SN). Some models predict KNe to be redder, shorter-lived, and dimmer than supernovae (SNe), but the event rate of KNe is poorly constrained. We simulate KN and SN light curves with the Monte-Carlo simulation code SNANA to optimize selection requirements, determine search efficiency, and predict SN backgrounds. Our analysis of the first two seasons of DES-SN data results in 0 events, and is consistent with our prediction of 1.1 ± 0.2 background events based on simulations of SNe. From our prediction, there is a 33% chance of finding 0 events in the data. Assuming no underlying galaxy flux, our search sets 90% upper limits on the KN volumetric rate of 1.0 x 107 Gpc−3 yr−1 for the dimmest KN model we consider (peak i-band absolute magnitude Mi = -11.4 mag) and 2.4 x 104 Gpc−3 yr−1 for the brightest (Mi=-16.2 mag). Accounting for anomalous subtraction artifacts on bright galaxies, these limits are ~3 times higher. This analysis is the first untriggered optical KN search and informs selection requirements and strategies for future KN searches. Our upper limits on the KN rate are consistent with those measured by GW and gamma-ray burst searches.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2017


  • astro-ph.HE
  • binaries: general
  • methods: data analysis
  • methods: observational
  • stars: neutron
  • supernovae: general


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