Sketch of time-variable phenomena that WST will observe. Image credit: Richard I. Anderson (EPFL)

WST and time domain

WST will provide an unprecedented spectroscopic characterization of transient and timevariable phenomena. Time-domain and multi-messenger astronomy are key priorities identified by major planning exercises, such as the Astro2020 decadal survey, and they are tightly connected since multi-messenger events are typically of a transient nature.
WST is being conceived with a time-domain mindset, to enable maximum operational flexibility and rapid data processing in order to serve the needs of this exciting and diverse field full of serendipitous discovery potential, with science cases spanning all physical scales from Solar system objects to Cosmology and all-time scales from hours to decades. In addition to finding hitherto unknown categories of variable events thereby revealing new astrophysical processes, WST can make huge progress in the revolution of exploiting sources of gravitational waves (GWs). WST’s IFS and MOS will collect low-resolution spectra of up to 10,000 transient phenomena every night, including supernovae (SNe), active galactic nuclei, tidal disruption events (TDEs), gamma-ray-bursts (GRBs), and fast radio bursts (FRBs), among others. Serendipitous transient observations at random phase will be collected while surveying distant galaxies, while intentional observations will be taken in response to alert brokers (e.g., Rubin/LSST).

Electromagnetic counterparts of GW events

WST will make key contributions to the multi-messenger revolution heralded by gravitational wave (GW) events with electromagnetic counterparts detected by next-generation detectors, such as the Einstein Telescope (ET) and Cosmic Explorer (CE). ET will detect ~105 GW events from merging binary neutron stars (BNS), even beyond the star formation peak. ET will even discover some BNS during the inspiral phase up to hours before the merger. WST's simultaneous IFS & MOS operations will be perfectly suited for providing the required spectroscopic characterization at early times thanks to telescope-level target of opportunity observations as illustrated in Figure 16. The IFS would survey high-density and high-probability regions, while the MOS fibres would be placed on live electromagnetic events within the FoV. The IFS will be particularly useful to capture nearby BNS events that can occur significantly offset from their host galaxies. Fibres not used for the GW event will in parallel contribute to other science cases, minimizing disruption to the other surveys despite the ToO observing mode. Image credit: Sofia Bisero (GEPI).