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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. Abstract The discovery of the electromagnetic counterpart to the binary neutron star (NS) merger GW170817 has opened the era of gravitational-wave multimessenger astronomy. Rapid identification of the optical/infrared kilonova enabled a precise localization of the source, which paved the way to deep multiwavelength follow-up and its myriad of related science results. Fully exploiting this new territory of exploration requires the acquisition of electromagnetic data from samples of NS mergers and other gravitational-wave sources. After GW170817, the frontier is now to map the diversity of kilonova properties and provide more stringent constraints on the Hubble constant, and enable new tests ofmore »fundamental physics. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time can play a key role in this field in the 2020s, when an improved network of gravitational-wave detectors is expected to reach a sensitivity that will enable the discovery of a high rate of merger events involving NSs (∼tens per year) out to distances of several hundred megaparsecs. We design comprehensive target-of-opportunity observing strategies for follow-up of gravitational-wave triggers that will make the Rubin Observatory the premier instrument for discovery and early characterization of NS and other compact-object mergers, and yet unknown classes of gravitational-wave events.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. We present the goals, strategy and first results of the high-cadence Galactic plane survey using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). The goal of the survey is to unveil the Galactic population of short-period variable stars, including short period binaries and stellar pulsators with periods less than a few hours. Between June 2018 and January 2019, we observed 64 ZTF fields resulting in 2990 deg2 of high stellar density in ZTF-r band along the Galactic Plane. Each field was observed continuously for 1.5 to 6 hrs with a cadence of 40 sec. Most fields have between 200 and 400 observations obtainedmore »over 2-3 continuous nights. As part of this survey we extract a total of ≈230 million individual objects with at least 80 epochs obtained during the high-cadence Galactic Plane survey reaching an average depth of ZTF-r ≈20.5 mag. For four selected fields with 2 million to 10 million individual objects per field we calculate different variability statistics and find that ≈1-2% of the objects are astrophysically variable over the observed period. We present a progress report on recent discoveries, including a new class of compact pulsators, the first members of a new class of Roche Lobe filling hot subdwarf binaries as well as new ultracompact double white dwarfs and flaring stars. Finally we present a sample of 12 new single-mode hot subdwarf B-star pulsators with pulsation amplitudes between ZTF-r = 20-76 mmag and pulsation periods between P = 5.8-16 min with a strong cluster of systems with periods ≈ 6 min. All of the data have now been released in either ZTF Data Release 3 or data release 4.« less
  4. While optical surveys regularly discover slow transients like supernovae on their own, the most common way to discover extragalactic fast transients, fading away in a few nights, is via follow-up observations of gamma-ray burst and gravitational-wave triggers. However, wide-field surveys have the potential to also identify rapidly fading transients independently of such external triggers. The volumetric survey speed of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) makes it sensitive to faint and fast-fading objects as kilonovae, the optical counterparts to binary neutron stars and neutron star-black hole mergers, out to almost 200Mpc. We introduce an open-source software infrastructure, the ZTF REaltime Searchmore »and Triggering, ZTFReST, designed to identify kilonovae and fast optical transients in ZTF data. Using the ZTF alert stream combined with forced photometry, we have implemented automated candidate ranking based on their photometric evolution and fitting to kilonova models. Automated triggering of follow-up systems, such as Las Cumbres Observatory, has also been implemented. In 13 months of science validation, we found several extragalactic fast transients independent of any external trigger (though some counterparts were identified later), including at least one supernova with post-shock cooling emission, two known afterglows with an associated gamma-ray burst, two known afterglows without any known gamma-ray counterpart, and three new fast-declining sources (ZTF20abtxwfx, ZTF20acozryr, and ZTF21aagwbjr) that are likely associated with GRB200817A, GRB201103B, and GRB210204A. However, we have not found any objects which appear to be kilonovae; therefore, we constrain the rate of GW170817-like kilonovae to R<900Gpc−3yr−1. A framework such as ZTFReST could become a prime tool for kilonova and fast transient discovery with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory.« less
  5. We present 42 rapidly evolving (time spent above half-maximum brightness t1/2<12d) extragalactic transients from Phase I of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), of which 22 have spectroscopic classifications. This is one of the largest systematically selected samples of day-timescale transients, and the first with spectroscopic classifications. Most can be classified as core-collapse supernovae (SNe), and we identify several predominant subtypes: (1) subluminous Type IIb or Type Ib SNe; (2) luminous Type Ibn or hybrid IIn/Ibn SNe; and (3) radio-loud, short-duration luminous events similar to AT2018cow. We conclude that rates quoted in the literature for rapidly evolving extragalactic transients are dominatedmore »by the subluminous events (mostly Type IIb SNe). From our spectroscopic classifications and radio, X-ray, and millimeter-band upper limits, we are motivated to consider the AT2018cow-like objects a distinct class, and use ZTF's systematic classification experiments to calculate that their rate does not exceed 0.1% of the local core-collapse SN rate, in agreement with previous work. By contrast, most other events are simply the extreme of a continuum of established SN types extending to ordinary timescales. The light curves of our objects are very similar to those of unclassified events in the literature, illustrating how spectroscopically classified samples of low-redshift objects in shallow surveys like ZTF can be used to photometrically classify larger numbers of events at higher redshift.« less