Kilonova Catcher

How amateur astronomers can help us find kilonovae

It is my pleasure to inform you that we have now launched the Kilonova-catcher program, which aims to bring in amateur astronomers into the search for kilonovae. Our program allows astronomy enthusiasts from around the world to use their own telescopes to survey the sky and look for counterparts to binary neutron star mergers. The main goal is to form a continuous chain of observations at very early times, before passing the torch to the larger facilities managed by the professional astronomers.

During the last LIGO-Virgo campaign, we used GW alerts to examine potential host galaxies of the GW events and to catch the first light from a kilonova. The amazing gravitational-wave detectors are being upgraded for the next campaign, which will start in about a year but we decided not to wait and now use the ZTF as our kilonova candidate generator! The observations of the only kilonova observed so far so far suggest that ZTF can search for kilonovae within the local universe during its routine observations.

Since the start of the program, we have been observing every weekend the most promising kilonovae candidates detected by ZTF during its Friday night observations. Alerts are handled and classified by the FINK broker. We have shown that our team has the technology to reach the depth of the observations of ZTF!

This campaign is organized by the Global Advanced Rapid Network of Multi-messenger Addicts (GRANDMA, PI. S. Antier, UVA), that brings together 25 facilities around the globe breaking the glass ceiling between the gravitational-wave physicist community and individual astronomical groups. The Kilonova-catcher program (leader D. Turpin, CEA), is supported by Université de Paris and IJCLAB.

You can also watch some videos to learn more on our Youtube channel and contact Damien Turpin if you have any questions.

--Sarah Antier (University of Amsterdam)