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  1. Abstract

    Transient low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) are discovered largely by X-ray and gamma-ray all-sky monitors. The X-ray outburst is also accompanied by an optical brightening, which empirically can precede the detection of X-rays. Newly sensitive optical synoptic surveys may offer a complementary pathway for discovery and potential for insight into the initial onset and propagation of the thermal instability that leads to the ionization of the accretion disk. We use the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) alert stream to perform a comprehensive search at optical wavelengths for previously undiscovered outbursting LMXBs. Our pipeline first crossmatches the positions of the alerts to cataloged X-ray sources, and then analyzes the 30 day lightcurve of matched alerts by thresholding on differences with an 8 day exponentially weighted moving average. In addition to a 19 month long live search, we ran our pipeline over 4 yr of ZTF archival data, recovering four known LMXBs. We also independently detected an outburst of MAXI J1957+032 in the live search and found the first outburst of Swift J1943.4+0228, an unclassified X-ray transient, in 10 yr. Using Monte Carlo simulations of the Galactic LMXB population, we estimate that 29% of outbursting LMXBs are detectable by ZTF and that 4.4% of LMXBs would be present in the crossmatched X-ray catalogs, giving an estimated Galactic population of33901930+3980. We estimate that our current pipeline can detect 1.3% of all outbursting LMXBs, including those previously unknown, but that Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time will be able to detect 43% of outbursting LMXBs.

     
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  2. ABSTRACT

    The origin of cosmic high-energy neutrinos remains largely unexplained. For high-energy neutrino alerts from IceCube, a coincidence with time-variable emission has been seen for three different types of accreting black holes: (1) a gamma-ray flare from a blazar (TXS 0506+056), (2) an optical transient following a stellar tidal disruption event (TDE; AT2019dsg), and (3) an optical outburst from an active galactic nucleus (AGN; AT2019fdr). For the latter two sources, infrared follow-up observations revealed a powerful reverberation signal due to dust heated by the flare. This discovery motivates a systematic study of neutrino emission from all supermassive black hole with similar dust echoes. Because dust reprocessing is agnostic to the origin of the outburst, our work unifies TDEs and high-amplitude flares from AGN into a population that we dub accretion flares. Besides the two known events, we uncover a third flare that is coincident with a PeV-scale neutrino (AT2019aalc). Based solely on the optical and infrared properties, we estimate a significance of 3.6σ for this association of high-energy neutrinos with three accretion flares. Our results imply that at least ∼10 per cent of the IceCube high-energy neutrino alerts could be due to accretion flares. This is surprising because the sum of the fluence of these flares is at least three orders of magnitude lower compared to the total fluence of normal AGN. It thus appears that the efficiency of high-energy neutrino production in accretion flares is increased compared to non-flaring AGN. We speculate that this can be explained by the high Eddington ratio of the flares.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Using the Zwicky Transient Facility, in 2021 February we identified the first known outburst of the black hole X-ray transient XTE J1859+226 since its discovery in 1999. The outburst was visible at X-ray, UV, and optical wavelengths for less than 20 days, substantially shorter than its full outburst of 320 days in 1999, and the observed peak luminosity was 2 orders of magnitude lower. Its peak bolometric luminosity was only 2 × 1035erg s−1, implying an Eddington fraction of about 3 × 10−4. The source remained in the hard spectral state throughout the outburst. From optical spectroscopy measurements we estimate an outer disk radius of 1011cm. The low observed X-ray luminosity is not sufficient to irradiate the entire disk, but we observe a surprising exponential decline in the X-ray light curve. These observations highlight the potential of optical and infrared synoptic surveys to discover low-luminosity activity from X-ray transients.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Multipeaked supernovae with precursors, dramatic light-curve rebrightenings, and spectral transformation are rare, but are being discovered in increasing numbers by modern night-sky transient surveys like the Zwicky Transient Facility. Here, we present the observations and analysis of SN 2023aew, which showed a dramatic increase in brightness following an initial luminous (−17.4 mag) and long (∼100 days) unusual first peak (possibly precursor). SN 2023aew was classified as a Type IIb supernova during the first peak but changed its type to resemble a stripped-envelope supernova (SESN) after the marked rebrightening. We present comparisons of SN 2023aew’s spectral evolution with SESN subtypes and argue that it is similar to SNe Ibc during its main peak. P-Cygni Balmer lines are present during the first peak, but vanish during the second peak’s photospheric phase, before Hαresurfaces again during the nebular phase. The nebular lines ([Oi], [Caii], Mgi], Hα) exhibit a double-peaked structure that hints toward a clumpy or nonspherical ejecta. We analyze the second peak in the light curve of SN 2023aew and find it to be broader than that of normal SESNe as well as requiring a very high56Ni mass to power the peak luminosity. We discuss the possible origins of SN 2023aew including an eruption scenario where a part of the envelope is ejected during the first peak and also powers the second peak of the light curve through interaction of the SN with the circumstellar medium.

     
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  5. Abstract Magnetic cataclysmic variables (CVs) are luminous Galactic X-ray sources, which have been difficult to find in purely optical surveys due to their lack of outburst behavior. The eROSITA telescope on board the Spektr-RG mission is conducting an all-sky X-ray survey and recently released the public eROSITA Final Equatorial Depth Survey (eFEDS) catalog. We crossmatched the eFEDS catalog with photometry from the Zwicky Transient Facility and discovered two new magnetic CVs. We obtained high-cadence optical photometry and phase-resolved spectroscopy for each magnetic CV candidate and found them both to be polars. Among the newly discovered magnetic CVs is eFEDS J085037.2+044359/ZTFJ0850+0443, an eclipsing polar with orbital period P orb = 1.72 hr and WD mass M WD = 0.81 ± 0.08 M ⊙ . We suggest that eFEDS J085037.2+044359/ZTFJ0850+0443 is a low magnetic field strength polar, with B WD ≲ 10 MG. We also discovered a non-eclipsing polar, eFEDS J092614.1+010558/ZTFJ0926+0105, with orbital period P orb = 1.47 hr and magnetic field strength B WD = 36–42 MG. 
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  6. Abstract While it is difficult to observe the first black hole seeds in the early universe, we can study intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) in local dwarf galaxies for clues about their origins. In this paper we present a sample of variability-selected active galactic nuclei (AGN) in dwarf galaxies using optical photometry from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) and forward-modeled mid-IR photometry of time-resolved Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) co-added images. We found that 44 out of 25,714 dwarf galaxies had optically variable AGN candidates and 148 out of 79,879 dwarf galaxies had mid-IR variable AGN candidates, corresponding to active fractions of 0.17% ± 0.03% and 0.19% ± 0.02%, respectively. We found that spectroscopic approaches to AGN identification would have missed 81% of our ZTF IMBH candidates and 69% of our WISE IMBH candidates. Only nine candidates have been detected previously in radio, X-ray, and variability searches for dwarf galaxy AGN. The ZTF and WISE dwarf galaxy AGN with broad Balmer lines have virial masses of 10 5 M ⊙ < M BH < 10 7 M ⊙ , but for the rest of the sample, BH masses predicted from host galaxy mass range between 10 5.2 M ⊙ < M BH < 10 7.25 M ⊙ . We found that only 5 of 152 previously reported variability-selected AGN candidates from the Palomar Transient Factory in common with our parent sample were variable in ZTF. We also determined a nuclear supernova fraction of 0.05% ± 0.01% yr −1 for dwarf galaxies in ZTF. Our ZTF and WISE IMBH candidates show the promise of variability searches for the discovery of otherwise hidden low-mass AGN. 
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  7. Abstract

    The accretion disks of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are promising locations for the merger of compact objects detected by gravitational wave (GW) observatories. Embedded within a baryon-rich, high-density environment, mergers within AGNs are the only GW channel where an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart must occur (whether detectable or not). Considering AGNs with unusual flaring activity observed by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), we describe a search for candidate EM counterparts to binary black hole (BBH) mergers detected by LIGO/Virgo in O3. After removing probable false positives, we find nine candidate counterparts to BBH mergers during O3 (seven in O3a, two in O3b) with ap-value of 0.0019. Based on ZTF sky coverage, AGN geometry, and merger geometry, we expect ≈3(NBBH/83)(fAGN/0.5) potentially detectable EM counterparts from O3, whereNBBHis the total number of observed BBH mergers andfAGNis the fraction originating in AGNs. Further modeling of breakout and flaring phenomena in AGN disks is required to reduce our false-positive rate. Two of the events are also associated with mergers with total masses >100M, which is the expected rate for O3 if hierarchical (large-mass) mergers occur in the AGN channel. Candidate EM counterparts in future GW observing runs can be better constrained by coverage of the Southern sky as well as spectral monitoring of unusual AGN flaring events in LIGO/Virgo alert volumes. A future set of reliable AGN EM counterparts to BBH mergers will yield an independent means of measuring cosmic expansion (H0) as a function of redshift.

     
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  8. Abstract

    We report observations of the optical counterpart of the long gamma-ray burst (GRB) GRB 230812B and its associated supernova (SN) SN 2023pel. The proximity (z= 0.36) and high energy (Eγ,iso∼ 1053erg) make it an important event to study as a probe of the connection between massive star core collapse and relativistic jet formation. With a phenomenological power-law model for the optical afterglow, we find a late-time flattening consistent with the presence of an associated SN. SN 2023pel has an absolute peakr-band magnitude ofMr= −19.46 ± 0.18 mag (about as bright as SN 1998bw) and evolves on quicker timescales. Using a radioactive heating model, we derive a nickel mass powering the SN ofMNi= 0.38 ± 0.01Mand a peak bolometric luminosity ofLbol∼ 1.3 × 1043erg s−1. We confirm SN 2023pel’s classification as a broad-line Type Ic SN with a spectrum taken 15.5 days after its peak in therband and derive a photospheric expansion velocity ofvph= 11,300 ± 1600 km s−1at that phase. Extrapolating this velocity to the time of maximum light, we derive the ejecta massMej= 1.0 ± 0.6Mand kinetic energyEKE=1.31.2+3.3×1051erg. We find that GRB 230812B/SN 2023pel has SN properties that are mostly consistent with the overall GRB-SN population. The lack of correlations found in the GRB-SN population between SN brightness andEγ,isofor their associated GRBs across a broad range of 7 orders of magnitude provides further evidence that the central engine powering the relativistic ejecta is not coupled to the SN powering mechanism in GRB-SN systems.

     
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  9. Abstract

    We conduct a systematic tidal disruption event (TDE) demographics analysis using the largest sample of optically selected TDEs. A flux-limited, spectroscopically complete sample of 33 TDEs is constructed using the Zwicky Transient Facility over 3 yr (from 2018 October to 2021 September). We infer the black hole (BH) mass (MBH) with host galaxy scaling relations, showing that the sampleMBHranges from 105.1Mto 108.2M. We developed a survey efficiency corrected maximum volume method to infer the rates. The rest-frameg-band luminosity function can be well described by a broken power law ofϕ(Lg)Lg/Lbk0.3+Lg/Lbk2.61, withLbk= 1043.1erg s−1. In the BH mass regime of 105.3≲ (MBH/M) ≲ 107.3, the TDE mass function followsϕ(MBH)MBH0.25, which favors a flat local BH mass function (dnBH/dlogMBHconstant). We confirm the significant rate suppression at the high-mass end (MBH≳ 107.5M), which is consistent with theoretical predictions considering direct capture of hydrogen-burning stars by the event horizon. At a host galaxy mass ofMgal∼ 1010M, the average optical TDE rate is ≈3.2 × 10−5galaxy−1yr−1. We constrain the optical TDE rate to be [3.7, 7.4, and 1.6] × 10−5galaxy−1yr−1in galaxies with red, green, and blue colors.

     
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  10. Abstract Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are thermonuclear explosions of degenerate white dwarf stars destabilized by mass accretion from a companion star 1 , but the nature of their progenitors remains poorly understood. A way to discriminate between progenitor systems is through radio observations; a non-degenerate companion star is expected to lose material through winds 2 or binary interaction 3 before explosion, and the supernova ejecta crashing into this nearby circumstellar material should result in radio synchrotron emission. However, despite extensive efforts, no type Ia supernova (SN Ia) has ever been detected at radio wavelengths, which suggests a clean environment and a companion star that is itself a degenerate white dwarf star 4,5 . Here we report on the study of SN 2020eyj, a SN Ia showing helium-rich circumstellar material, as demonstrated by its spectral features, infrared emission and, for the first time in a SN Ia to our knowledge, a radio counterpart. On the basis of our modelling, we conclude that the circumstellar material probably originates from a single-degenerate binary system in which a white dwarf accretes material from a helium donor star, an often proposed formation channel for SNe Ia (refs.  6,7 ). We describe how comprehensive radio follow-up of SN 2020eyj-like SNe Ia can improve the constraints on their progenitor systems. 
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