Lanthanide Features in Near-infrared Spectra of Kilonovae

Nanae Domoto, Masaomi Tanaka, Daiji Kato, Kyohei Kawaguchi, Kenta Hotokezaka, Shinya Wanajo

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The observations of GW170817/AT2017gfo have provided us with evidence that binary neutron star mergers are sites of r-process nucleosynthesis. However, the observed signatures in the spectra of GW170817/AT2017gfo have not been fully decoded, especially in the near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths. In this paper, we investigate the kilonova spectra over the entire wavelength range with the aim of elemental identification. We systematically calculate the strength of bound-bound transitions by constructing a hybrid line list that is accurate for important strong transitions and complete for weak transitions. We find that the elements on the left side of the periodic table, such as Ca, Sr, Y, Zr, Ba, La, and Ce, tend to produce prominent absorption lines in the spectra. This is because such elements have a small number of valence electrons and low-lying energy levels, resulting in strong transitions. By performing self-consistent radiative transfer simulations for the entire ejecta, we find that La iii and Ce iii appear in the NIR spectra, which can explain the absorption features at λ ∼ 12000-14000 Å in the spectra of GW170817/AT2017gfo. The mass fractions of La and Ce are estimated to be >2 × 10−6 and ∼(1-100) × 10−5, respectively. An actinide element Th can also be a source of absorption as the atomic structure is analogous to that of Ce. However, we show that Th iii features are less prominent in the spectra because of the denser energy levels of actinides compared to those of lanthanides.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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