A Kilonova Following a Long-Duration Gamma-Ray Burst at 350 Mpc


Submitted on 22 April 2022


Here, we report the discovery of a kilonova associated with the nearby (350 Mpc) minute-duration GRB 211211A. In tandem with deep optical limits that rule out the presence of an accompanying supernova to $M_I > -13$ mag at 17.7 days post-burst, the identification of a kilonova confirms that this burst's progenitor was a compact object merger. While the spectrally softer tail in GRB 211211A's gamma-ray light curve is reminiscent of previous extended emission short GRBs (EE-SGRBs), its prompt, bright spikes last $\gtrsim 12$ s, separating it from past EE-SGRBs. GRB 211211A's kilonova has a similar luminosity, duration and color to AT2017gfo, the kilonova found in association with the gravitational wave (GW)-detected binary neutron star (BNS) merger GW170817. We find that the merger ejected $\approx 0.04 M_{\odot}$ of r-process-rich material, and is consistent with the merger of two neutron stars (NSs) with masses close to the canonical $1.4 M_{\odot}$. This discovery implies that GRBs with long, complex light curves can be spawned from compact object merger events and that a population of kilonovae following GRBs with durations $\gg 2$ s should be accounted for in calculations of the NS merger r-process contribution and rate. At 350 Mpc, the current network of GW interferometers at design sensitivity would have detected the merger precipitating GRB 211211A, had it been operating at the time of the event. Further searches for GW signals coincident with long GRBs are therefore a promising route for future multi-messenger astronomy.


Comment: Submitted. 57 pages, 11 figures, 3 tables

Subject: Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena