The joint detection of gravitational waves (GWs) and γ-rays from a binary neutron star (NS) merger provided a unique view of off-axis gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and an independent measurement of the NS merger rate. Comparing the observations of GRB170817 with those of the regular population of short GRBs (sGRBs), we show that an order unity fraction of NS mergers result in sGRB jets that breakout of the surrounding ejecta. We argue that the luminosity function of sGRBs, peaking at ≈2 × 1052 erg s−1, is likely an intrinsic property of the sGRB central engine and that sGRB jets are typically narrow with opening angles θ0 ≈ 0.1. We perform Monte Carlo simulations to examine models for the structure and efficiency of the prompt emission in off-axis sGRBs. We find that only a small fraction (∼0.01-0.1) of NS mergers detectable by LIGO/VIRGO in GWs is expected to be also detected in prompt γ-rays and that GW170817-like events are very rare. For an NS merger rate of ∼1500 Gpc−3 yr−1, as inferred from GW170817, we expect within the next decade up to ∼12 joint detections with off-axis GRBs for structured-jet models and just ∼1 for quasi-spherical cocoon models where γ-rays are the result of shock breakout. Given several joint detections and the rates of their discoveries, the different structure models can be distinguished. In addition the existence of a cocoon with a reservoir of thermal energy may be observed directly in the ultraviolet, given a sufficiently rapid localization of the GW source.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank the referee for a constructive report, and Tsvi Piran, Ehud Nakar, Pawan Kumar, Omer Bromberg, and Kenta Hotokezaka for helpful discussions. RBD thanks Danielle Taylor for useful discussions. MP acknowledges support from the Lyman Jr. Spitzer Postdoctoral Fellowship and NASA grant 80NSSC18K1745. DG acknowledges support from NASA grants NNX16AB32G and NNX17AG21G. RBD and DG acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation under grants 1816694 and 1816136.
© 2018 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- Gamma-ray burst: general
- Gravitational waves