Lanthanides or Dust in Kilonovae: Lessons Learned from GW170817
journal contributionposted on 09.04.2018, 08:48 by Christa Gall, Jens Hjorth, Stephan Rosswog, Nial R. Tanvir, Andrew J. Levan
The unprecedented optical and near-infrared lightcurves of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational-wave source, GW170817, a binary neutron star merger, exhibited a strong evolution from blue to near-infrared (a so-called "kilonova" or "macronova"). The emerging near-infrared component is widely attributed to the formation of r-process elements that provide the opacity to shift the blue light into the near-infrared. An alternative scenario is that the light from the blue component gets extinguished by dust formed by the kilonova and subsequently is re-emitted at near-infrared wavelengths. We test here this hypothesis using the lightcurves of AT 2017gfo, the kilonova accompanying GW170817. We find that of the order of of carbon is required to reproduce the optical/near-infrared lightcurves as the kilonova fades. This putative dust cools from ∼2000 K at ∼4 days after the event to ∼1500 K over the course of the following week, thus requiring dust with a high condensation temperature, such as carbon. We contrast this with the nucleosynthetic yields predicted by a range of kilonova wind models. These suggest that at most of carbon is formed. Moreover, the decay in the inferred dust temperature is slower than that expected in kilonova models. We therefore conclude that in current models of the blue component of the kilonova, the near-infrared component in the kilonova accompanying GW170817 is unlikely to be due to dust.