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The discovery of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave signal has generated follow-up observations by over 50 facilities world-wide, ushering in the new era of multi-messenger astronomy. In this paper, we present follow-up observations of the gravitational wave event GW170817 and its electromagnetic counterpart SSS17a/DLT17ck (IAU label AT2017gfo) by 14 Australian telescopes and partner observatories as part of Australian-based and Australian-led research programs. We report early- to late-time multi-wavelength observations, including optical imaging and spectroscopy, mid-infrared imaging, radio imaging, and searches for fast radio bursts. Our optical spectra reveal that the transient source emission cooled from approximately 6 400 K to 2 100 K over a 7-d period and produced no significant optical emission lines. The spectral profiles, cooling rate, and photometric light curves are consistent with the expected outburst and subsequent processes of a binary neutron star merger. Star formation in the host galaxy probably ceased at least a Gyr ago, although there is evidence for a galaxy merger. Binary pulsars with short (100 Myr) decay times are therefore unlikely progenitors, but pulsars like PSR B1534+12 with its 2.7 Gyr coalescence time could produce such a merger. The displacement (~2.2 kpc) of the binary star system from the centre of the main galaxy is not unusual for stars in the host galaxy or stars originating in the merging galaxy, and therefore any constraints on the kick velocity imparted to the progenitor are poor.
A simple mass balance model provides insight into the hydrologic, isotopic, and chemical responses of Lake Titicaca to past climatic changes. Latest Pleistocene climate of the Altiplano is assumed to have been 20% wetter and 5°C colder than today, based on previous modeling. Our simulation of lacustrine change since 15,000 cal yr B.P. is forced by these modeled climate changes. The latest Pleistocene Lake Titicaca was deep, fresh, and overflowing. The latest Pleistocene riverine discharge from the lake was about 8 times greater than the modern average, sufficient to allow the expansion of the great paleolake Tauca on the central Altiplano. The lake δ18O value averaged about −13‰ SMOW (the modern value is about −4.2‰). The early Holocene decrease in precipitation caused Lake Titicaca to fall below its outlet and contributed to a rapid desiccation of paleolake Tauca. Continued evaporation caused the 100-m drop in lake level, but only a slight (1–2‰) increase (relative to modern) in δ18O of early Holocene lake waters. This Holocene lowstand level of nearly 100 m was most likely produced by a precipitation decrease, relative to modern, of about 40%. The lake was saline as recently as 2000 cal yr B.P. The timing of these hydrologic changes is in general agreement with calculated changes of insolation forcing of the South American summer monsoon.
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