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Title: Dust Echoes from Luminous Fast Blue Optical Transients

Luminous fast blue optical transients (LFBOTs) such as AT2018cow form a rare class of engine-powered explosions of uncertain origin. A hallmark feature of these events is radio/millimeter synchrotron emission powered by the interaction of fast ≳0.1cejecta and dense circumstellar material (CSM) extending to large radii ≳1016cm surrounding the progenitor. Assuming this CSM to be an outflow from the progenitor, we show that dust grains up to ∼1μm in size can form in the outflow in the years before the explosion. This dusty CSM would attenuate the transient’s ultraviolet emission prior to peak light, before being destroyed by the rising luminosity, reddening the premaximum colors (consistent with the premaximum red-to-blue color evolution of the LFBOT candidate MUSSES2020J). Reradiation by the dust before being destroyed generates a near-infrared (NIR) “echo” of luminosity ∼1041–1042erg s−1lasting weeks, which is detectable over the transient’s rapidly fading blue continuum. We show that this dust echo is compatible with the previously unexplained NIR excess observed in AT2018cow. The gradual decay of the early NIR light curve can result from CSM, which is concentrated in a wide-angle equatorial outflow or torus, consistent with the highly aspherical geometry of AT2018cow’s ejecta. Premaximum optical/UV and NIR follow-up of LFBOTs provide a new probe of their CSM environments and place additional constraints on their progenitors.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
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Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 74
["Article No. 74"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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