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  1. Abstract

    The astrophysical environments capable of triggering heavy-element synthesis via rapid neutron capture (ther-process) remain uncertain. While binary neutron star mergers (NSMs) are known to forger-process elements, certain rare supernovae (SNe) have been theorized to supplement—or even dominate—r-production by NSMs. However, the most direct evidence for such SNe, unusual reddening of the emission caused by the high opacities ofr-process elements, has not been observed. Recent work identified the distribution ofr-process material within the SN ejecta as a key predictor of the ease with which signals associated withr-process enrichment could be discerned. Though this distribution results from hydrodynamic processes at play during the SN explosion, thus far it has been treated only in a parameterized way. We use hydrodynamic simulations to model how disk winds—the alleged locus ofr-production in rare SNe—mix with initiallyr-process-free ejecta. We study mixing as a function of the wind mass, wind duration, and the initial SN explosion energy, and find that it increases with the first two of these and decreases with the third. This suggests that SNe accompanying the longest long-duration gamma-ray bursts are promising places to search for signs ofr-process enrichment. We use semianalytic radiation transport to connect hydrodynamics to electromagnetic observables, allowing us to assess the mixing level at which the presence ofr-process material can be diagnosed from SN light curves. Analytic arguments constructed atop this foundation imply that a wind-drivenr-process-enriched SN model is unlikely to explain standard energetic SNe.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Identifying the sites of r-process nucleosynthesis, a primary mechanism of heavy element production, is a key goal of astrophysics. The discovery of the brightest gamma-ray burst (GRB) to date, GRB 221009A, presented an opportunity to spectroscopically test the idea that r-process elements are produced following the collapse of rapidly rotating massive stars. Here we present James Webb Space Telescope observations of GRB 221009A obtained +168 and +170 rest-frame days after the gamma-ray trigger, and demonstrate that they are well described by a SN 1998bw-like supernova (SN) and power-law afterglow, with no evidence for a component from r-process emission. The SN, with a nickel mass of approximately 0.09 M, is only slightly fainter than the brightness of SN 1998bw at this phase, which indicates that the SN is not an unusual GRB-SN. This demonstrates that the GRB and SN mechanisms are decoupled and that highly energetic GRBs are not likely to produce significant quantities of r-process material, which leaves open the question of whether explosions of massive stars are key sources of r-process elements. Moreover, the host galaxy of GRB 221009A has a very low metallicity of approximately 0.12 Zand strong H2emission at the explosion site, which is consistent with recent star formation, hinting that environmental factors are responsible for its extreme energetics.

     
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  3. Wildfire activity is increasing in boreal forests as climate warms and dries, increasing risks to rural and urban communities. In black spruce forests of Interior Alaska, fuel reduction treatments are used to create a defensible space for fire suppression and slow fire spread. These treatments introduce novel disturbance characteristics, making longer-term outcomes on ecosystem structure and wildfire risk reduction uncertain. We remeasured a network of sites where fuels were reduced through hand thinning or mechanical shearblading in Interior Alaska to assess how successional trajectories of tree dominance, understory composition, and permafrost change over ∼ 20 years after treatment. We also assessed if these fuel reduction treatments reduce modeled surface rate of fire spread (ROS), flame length, and fireline intensity relative to an untreated black spruce stand, and if surface fire behavior changes over time. In thinned areas, soil organic layer (SOL) disturbance promoted tree seedling recruitment but did not change over time. In shearbladed sites, by contrast, both conifer and broad-leaved deciduous seedling density increased over time and deciduous seedlings were 20 times more abundant than spruce. Thaw depth increased over time in both treatments and was greatest in shearbladed sites with a thin SOL. Understory composition was not altered by thinning but in shearbladed treatments shifted from forbs and horsetail to tall deciduous shrubs and grasses over time. Modeled surface fire behavior was constant in shearbladed sites. This finding is inconsistent with expert opinion, highlighting the need for additional fuels-specific data to capture the changing vegetation structure. Treatment effectiveness at reducing modeled surface ROS, flame length, and fireline intensity depended on the fuel model used for an untreated black spruce stand, pointing to uncertainties about the efficacy of these treatments at mitigating surface fire behavior. Overall, we show that fuel reduction treatments can promote low flammability, deciduous tree dominated successional trajectories, and that shearblading has strong effects on understory composition and permafrost degradation that persist for nearly two decades after disturbance. Such factors need to be considered to enhance the design, management, and predictions of fire behavior in these treatments. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have historically been divided into two classes. Short-duration GRBs are associated with binary neutron star mergers (NSMs), while long-duration bursts are connected to a subset of core-collapse supernovae (SNe). GRB 211211A recently made headlines as the first long-duration burst purportedly generated by an NSM. The evidence for an NSM origin was excess optical and near-infrared emission consistent with the kilonova observed after the gravitational-wave-detected NSM GW170817. Kilonovae derive their unique electromagnetic signatures from the properties of the heavy elements synthesized by rapid neutron capture (ther-process) following the merger. Recent simulations suggest that the “collapsar” SNe that trigger long GRBs may also producer-process elements. While observations of GRB 211211A and its afterglow rule out an SN typical of those that follow long GRBs, an unusual collapsar could explain both the duration of GRB 211211A and ther-process-powered excess in its afterglow. We use semianalytic radiation transport modeling to evaluate low-mass collapsars as the progenitors of GRB 211211A–like events. We compare a suite of collapsar models to the afterglow-subtracted emission that followed GRB 211211A, and find the best agreement for models with high kinetic energies and an unexpected pattern of56Ni enrichment. We discuss how core-collapse explosions could produce such ejecta, and how distinct our predictions are from those generated by more straightforward kilonova models. We also show that radio observations can distinguish between kilonovae and the more massive collapsar ejecta we consider here.

     
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  5. Abstract

    As LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA enters its fourth observing run, a new opportunity to search for electromagnetic counterparts of compact object mergers will also begin. The light curves and spectra from the first “kilonova” associated with a binary neutron star merger (NSM) suggests that these sites are hosts of the rapid neutron capture (“r”) process. However, it is unknown just how robust elemental production can be in mergers. Identifying signposts of the production of particular nuclei is critical for fully understanding merger-driven heavy-element synthesis. In this study, we investigate the properties of very neutron-rich nuclei for which superheavy elements (Z≥ 104) can be produced in NSMs and whether they can similarly imprint a unique signature on kilonova light-curve evolution. A superheavy-element signature in kilonovae represents a route to establishing a lower limit on heavy-element production in NSMs as well as possibly being the first evidence of superheavy-element synthesis in nature. Favorable NSM conditions yield a mass fraction of superheavy elementsXZ≥104≈ 3 × 10−2at 7.5 hr post-merger. With this mass fraction of superheavy elements, we find that the component of kilonova light curves possibly containing superheavy elements may appear similar to those arising from lanthanide-poor ejecta. Therefore, photometric characterizations of superheavy-element rich kilonova may possibly misidentify them as lanthanide-poor events.

     
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  6. Abstract

    Despite recent progress, the astrophysical channels responsible for rapid neutron capture (r-process) nucleosynthesis remain an unsettled question. Observations of the kilonova following the gravitational-wave-detected neutron star merger GW170817 established mergers as one site of ther-process, but additional sources may be needed to fully explainr-process enrichment in the universe. One intriguing possibility is that rapidly rotating massive stars undergoing core collapse launchr-process-rich outflows off the accretion disks formed from their infalling matter. In this scenario,r-process winds are one component of the supernova (SN) ejecta produced by “collapsar” explosions. We present the first systematic study of the effects ofr-process enrichment on the emission from collapsar-generated SNe. We semianalytically modelr-process SN emission from explosion out to late times and determine its distinguishing features. The ease with whichr-process SNe can be identified depends on how effectively wind material mixes into the initiallyr-process-free outer layers of the ejecta. In many cases, enrichment produces a near-infrared (NIR) excess that can be detected within ∼75 days of explosion. We also discuss optimal targets and observing strategies for testing ther-process collapsar theory, and find that frequent monitoring of optical and NIR emission from high-velocity SNe in the first few months after explosion offers a reasonable chance of success while respecting finite observing resources. Such early identification ofr-process collapsar candidates also lays the foundation for nebular-phase spectroscopic follow-up in the NIR and mid-infrared, for example, with the James Webb Space Telescope.

     
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  7. Abstract

    The core collapse of rapidly rotating massive ∼ 10Mstars (“collapsars”), and the resulting formation of hyperaccreting black holes, comprise a leading model for the central engines of long-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and promising sources ofr-process nucleosynthesis. Here, we explore the signatures of collapsars from progenitors with helium cores ≳ 130Mabove the pair-instability mass gap. While the rapid collapse to a black hole likely precludes prompt explosions in these systems, we demonstrate that disk outflows can generate a large quantity (up to ≳ 50M) of ejecta, comprised of ≳ 5–10Minr-process elements and ∼ 0.1–1Mof56Ni, expanding at velocities ∼0.1 c. Radioactive heating of the disk wind ejecta powers an optical/IR transient, with a characteristic luminosity ∼ 1042erg s−1and a spectral peak in the near-IR (due to the high optical/UV opacities of lanthanide elements), similar to kilonovae from neutron star mergers, but with longer durations ≳1 month. These “super-kilonovae” (superKNe) herald the birth of massive black holes ≳ 60M, which—as a result of disk wind mass loss—can populate the pair-instability mass gap “from above,” and could potentially create the binary components of GW190521. SuperKNe could be discovered via wide-field surveys, such as those planned with the Roman Space Telescope, or via late-time IR follow-up observations of extremely energetic GRBs. Multiband gravitational waves of ∼ 0.1–50 Hz from nonaxisymmetric instabilities in self-gravitating massive collapsar disks are potentially detectable by proposed observatories out to hundreds of Mpc; in contrast to the “chirp” from binary mergers, the collapsar gravitational-wave signal decreases in frequency as the disk radius grows (“sad trombone”).

     
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  8. Abstract

    One of the open questions following the discovery of GW170817 is whether neutron star (NS) mergers are the only astrophysical sites capable of producingr-process elements. Simulations have shown that 0.01–0.1Mofr-process material could be generated in the outflows originating from the accretion disk surrounding the rapidly rotating black hole that forms as a remnant to both NS mergers and collapsing massive stars associated with long-duration gamma-ray bursts (collapsars). The hallmark signature ofr-process nucleosynthesis in the binary NS merger GW170817 was its long-lasting near-infrared (NIR) emission, thus motivating a systematic photometric study of the light curves of broad-lined stripped-envelope (Ic-BL) supernovae (SNe) associated with collapsars. We present the first systematic study of 25 SNe Ic-BL—including 18 observed with the Zwicky Transient Facility and 7 from the literature—in the optical/NIR bands to determine what quantity ofr-process material, if any, is synthesized in these explosions. Using semi-analytic models designed to account forr-process production in SNe Ic-BL, we perform light curve fitting to derive constraints on ther-process mass for these SNe. We also perform independent light curve fits to models without ther-process. We find that ther-process-free models are a better fit to the light curves of the objects in our sample. Thus, we find no compelling evidence ofr-process enrichment in any of our objects. Further high-cadence infrared photometric studies and nebular spectroscopic analysis would be sensitive to smaller quantities ofr-process ejecta mass or indicate whether all collapsars are completely devoid ofr-process nucleosynthesis.

     
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