skip to main content

Title: The Luminosity Phase Space of Galactic and Extragalactic X-Ray Transients Out to Intermediate Redshifts

We present a detailed compilation and analysis of the X-ray phase space of low- to intermediate-redshift (0 ≤z≤ 1) transients that consolidates observed light curves (and theory where necessary) for a large variety of classes of transient/variable phenomena in the 0.3–10 keV energy band. We include gamma-ray burst afterglows, supernovae, supernova shock breakouts and shocks interacting with the environment, tidal disruption events and active galactic nuclei, fast blue optical transients, cataclysmic variables, magnetar flares/outbursts and fast radio bursts, cool stellar flares, X-ray binary outbursts, and ultraluminous X-ray sources. Our overarching goal is to offer a comprehensive resource for the examination of these ephemeral events, extending the X-ray duration–luminosity phase space (DLPS) to show luminosity evolution. We use existing observations (both targeted and serendipitous) to characterize the behavior of various transient/variable populations. Contextualizing transient signals in the larger DLPS serves two primary purposes: to identify areas of interest (i.e., regions in the parameter space where one would expect detections, but in which observations have historically been lacking), and to provide initial qualitative guidance in classifying newly discovered transient signals. We find that while the most luminous (largely extragalactic) and least luminous (largely Galactic) part of the phase space is well populated att> 0.1 days, intermediate-luminosity phenomena (LX= 1034–1042erg s−1) represent a gap in the phase space. We thus identifyLX= 1034–1042erg s−1andt= 10−4to 0.1 days as a key discovery phase space in transient X-ray astronomy.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 75
["Article No. 75"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    We present observations of the extremely luminous but ambiguous nuclear transient (ANT) ASASSN-17jz, spanning roughly 1200 days of the object’s evolution. ASASSN-17jz was discovered by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) in the galaxy SDSS J171955.84+414049.4 on UT 2017 July 27 at a redshift ofz= 0.1641. The transient peaked at an absoluteB-band magnitude ofMB,peak= −22.81, corresponding to a bolometric luminosity ofLbol,peak= 8.3 × 1044erg s−1, and exhibited late-time ultraviolet emission that was still ongoing in our latest observations. Integrating the full light curve gives a total emitted energy ofEtot= (1.36 ±0.08) × 1052erg, with (0.80 ± 0.02) × 1052erg of this emitted within 200 days of peak light. This late-time ultraviolet emission is accompanied by increasing X-ray emission that becomes softer as it brightens. ASASSN-17jz exhibited a large number of spectral emission lines most commonly seen in active galactic nuclei (AGNs) with little evidence of evolution. It also showed transient Balmer features, which became fainter and broader over time, and are still being detected >1000 days after peak brightness. We consider various physical scenarios for the origin of the transient, including supernovae (SNe), tidal disruption events, AGN outbursts, and ANTs. We find that the most likely explanation is that ASASSN-17jz was a SN IIn occurring in or near the disk of an existing AGN, and that the late-time emission is caused by the AGN transitioning to a more active state.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    “Quasiperiodic eruptions” (QPE) are recurrent nuclear transients with periods of several hours to almost a day, which thus far have been detected exclusively in the X-ray band. We have shown that many of the key properties of QPE flares (period, luminosity, duration, emission temperature, alternating long-short recurrence time behavior, and source rates) are naturally reproduced by a scenario involving twice-per-orbit collisions between a solar-type star on a mildly eccentric orbit, likely brought into the nucleus as an extreme mass-ratio inspiral (EMRI), and the gaseous accretion disk of a supermassive black hole (SMBH). The flare is generated by the hot shocked debris expanding outwards from either side of the disk midplane, akin to dual miniature supernovae. Here, we consider the conditions necessary for disk–star collisions to generate lower-temperature flares that peak in the ultraviolet (UV) instead of the X-ray band. We identify a region of parameter space at low SMBH massM∼ 105.5Mand QPE periodsP≳ 10 hr for which the predicted flares are sufficiently luminousLUV∼ 1041erg s−1to outshine the quiescent disk emission at these wavelengths. The prospects to discover such “UV QPEs” with future satellite missions such as ULTRASAT and Ultraviolet Explorer depend on the prevalence of very low-mass SMBHs and the occurrence rate of stellar EMRIs onto them. For gaseous disks produced by the tidal disruption of stars, we predict that X-ray QPEs will eventually shut off, only to later reappear as UV QPEs as the accretion rate continues to drop.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    We present observations of ASASSN-20hx, a nearby ambiguous nuclear transient (ANT) discovered in NGC 6297 by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN). We observed ASASSN-20hx from −30 to 275 days relative to the peak UV/optical emission using high-cadence, multiwavelength spectroscopy and photometry. From Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite data, we determine that the ANT began to brighten on 2020 June 22.8 with a linear rise in flux for at least the first week. ASASSN-20hx peaked in the UV/optical 30 days later on 2020 July 22.8 (MJD = 59052.8) at a bolometric luminosity ofL= (3.15 ± 0.04) × 1043erg s−1. The subsequent decline is slower than any TDE observed to date and consistent with many other ANTs. Compared to an archival X-ray detection, the X-ray luminosity of ASASSN-20hx increased by an order of magnitude toLx∼ 1.5 × 1042erg s−1and then slowly declined over time. The X-ray emission is well fit by a power law with a photon index of Γ ∼ 2.3–2.6. Both the optical and near-infrared spectra of ASASSN-20hx lack emission lines, unusual for any known class of nuclear transient. While ASASSN-20hx has some characteristics seen in both tidal disruption events and active galactic nuclei, it cannot be definitively classified with current data.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Luminous red novae (LRNe) are transients characterized by low luminosities and expansion velocities, and they are associated with mergers or common-envelope ejections in stellar binaries. Intermediate-luminosity red transients (ILRTs) are an observationally similar class with unknown origins, but they are generally believed to be either electron-capture supernovae in super-asymptotic giant branch stars or outbursts in dusty luminous blue variables (LBVs). In this paper, we present a systematic sample of eight LRNe and eight ILRTs detected as part of the Census of the Local Universe (CLU) experiment on the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). The CLU experiment spectroscopically classifies ZTF transients associated with nearby (<150 Mpc) galaxies, achieving 80% completeness formr< 20 mag. Using the ZTF-CLU sample, we derive the first systematic LRNe volumetric rate of7.83.7+6.5×105Mpc−3yr−1in the luminosity range −16 ≤Mr≤ −11 mag. We find that, in this luminosity range, the LRN rate scales asdN/dLL2.5±0.3—significantly steeper than the previously derived scaling ofL−1.4±0.3for lower-luminosity LRNe (MV≥ −10 mag). The steeper power law for LRNe at high luminosities is consistent with the massive merger rates predicted by binary population synthesis models. We find that the rates of the brightest LRNe (Mr≤ −13 mag) are consistent with a significant fraction of them being progenitors of double compact objects that merge within a Hubble time. For ILRTs, we derive a volumetric rate of2.61.4+1.8×106Mpc−3yr−1forMr≤ −13.5 mag, which scales asdN/dLL2.5±0.5. This rate is ∼1%–5% of the local core-collapse supernova rate and is consistent with theoretical ECSN rate estimates.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Progenitor models for the “luminous” subclass of Fast Blue Optical Transients (LFBOTs; prototype: AT2018cow) are challenged to simultaneously explain all of their observed properties: fast optical rise times of days or less; peak luminosities ≳1044erg s−1; low yields ≲0.1Mof56Ni; aspherical ejecta with a wide velocity range (≲3000 km s−1to ≳0.1–0.5cwith increasing polar latitude); presence of hydrogen-depleted-but-not-free dense circumstellar material (CSM) on radial scales from ∼1014cm to ∼3 × 1016cm; embedded variable source of non-thermal X-ray/γ-rays, suggestive of a compact object. We show that all of these properties are consistent with the tidal disruption and hyper-accretion of a Wolf-Rayet (WR) star by a black hole or neutron star binary companion. In contrast with related previous models, the merger occurs with a long delay (≳100 yr) following the common envelope (CE) event responsible for birthing the binary, as a result of gradual angular momentum loss to a relic circumbinary disk. Disk-wind outflows from the merger-generated accretion flow generate the56Ni-poor aspherical ejecta with the requisite velocity range. The optical light curve is powered primarily by reprocessing X-rays from the inner accretion flow/jet, though CSM shock interaction also contributes. Primary CSM sources include WR mass loss from the earliest stages of the merger (≲1014cm) and the relic CE disk and its photoevaporation-driven wind (≳1016cm). Longer delayed mergers may instead give rise to supernovae Type Ibn/Icn (depending on the WR evolutionary state), connecting these transient classes with LFBOTs.

    more » « less