Long-term GRMHD simulations of neutron star merger accretion discs: Implications for electromagnetic counterparts

Rodrigo Fernández, Alexander Tchekhovskoy, Eliot Quataert, Francois Foucart, Daniel Kasen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


We investigate the long-term evolution of black hole accretion discs formed in neutron star mergers. These discs expel matter that contributes to an r-process kilonova, and can produce relativistic jets powering short gamma-ray bursts. Here we report the results of a three-dimensional, general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulation of such a disc which is evolved for long enough (∼9 s, or ∼6 × 105rg/c) to achieve completion of mass ejection far from the disc. Our model starts with a poloidal field, and fully resolves the most unstable mode of the magnetorotational instability. We parametrize the dominant microphysics and neutrino cooling effects, and compare with axisymmetric hydrodynamic models with shear viscosity. The GRMHD model ejects mass in two ways: a prompt MHD-mediated outflow and a late-time, thermally driven wind once the disc becomes advective. The total amount of unbound mass ejected (0.013 M, or 40 per cent of the initial torus mass) is twice as much as in hydrodynamic models, with higher average velocity (0.1c) and a broad electron fraction distribution with a lower average value (0.16). Scaling the ejected fractions to a disc mass of ∼0.1 M can account for the red kilonova from GW170817 but underpredicts the blue component. About ∼10−3 M of material should undergo neutron freezout and could produce a bright kilonova precursor in the first few hours after the merger. With our idealized initial magnetic field configuration, we obtain a robust jet and sufficient ejecta with Lorentz factor ∼1−10 to (over)produce the non-thermal emission from GW1708107.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3373-3393
Number of pages21
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 21 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Gravitation
  • MHD
  • Neutrinos
  • Nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances


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