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KilonovaRank: gravitational wave counterparts and exotic transients with next-generation surveys

Project description

A much closer look at astronomical objects and processes

The EU-funded KRANK project will harness the power of Big Data in investigating large cosmic events. By developing techniques to find the most energetic and extreme collisions, disruptions and explosions, the project will explore the fates of massive stars. Moreover, it will examine the origins of the biggest black holes and the sources of the heaviest chemical elements. Some of the most pressing questions about stellar evolution, nucleosythesis and high energy physics will be addressed with the development of novel image classification techniques. The project is timely, given that the upgrades in gravitational wave detectors, the start of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the brief era of the James Webb Space Telescope will overlap in just a few years.


Time-domain astronomy will soon be transformed by powerful instrumentation: the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and upgraded gravitational wave detectors. We will finally be able to build large samples of rare and multi-messenger transients, allowing new scientific breakthroughs. But to do so, we must overcome the substantial difficulty of identifying the important events among an expected sea of contaminants. I will solve this problem by developing novel image classification techniques before LSST begins, and then use this with LSST data to answer some of the most pressing questions about stellar evolution, nucleosynthesis, and high energy physics. I will discover hundreds of superluminous supernovae (SLSNe), key to unknown physics in massive stars, and tidal disruption events (TDEs) of stars around supermassive black holes, probing black hole accretion in usually inaccessible regimes. By folding in the sky maps from GW detections of neutron star mergers, I will rapidly find kilonova counterparts in LSST follow-up searches. With 10-100 kilonovae (compared to 1 well-studied event now), we will understand the nucleosynthesis of all heavy (r-process) elements, determine the equation of state for nuclear matter, and pin down what these mergers leave behind. Moreover, I will determine the progenitor stars and power source of SLSNe, and the emission mechanisms in TDEs and relation to black hole mass, using even larger samples of those events. We may even find whole new transient classes. This project could not be more timely as the upgrades in GW detectors, the start of LSST, and the brief era of JWST will overlap in just a few years (and within the time of an ERC-funded project). Everything is in place for success, from guaranteed data access and follow-up resources, to public/prototype codes. The legacy datasets for rare transient classes will dwarf those from pre-LSST, and our inference framework will lead to an unprecedented understanding of these populations.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 161 677,00
BT7 1NN Belfast
United Kingdom

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Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Belfast
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 161 677,00

Beneficiaries (2)