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Fast-transient Searches in Real Time with ZTFReST: Identification of Three Optically-discovered Gamma-ray Burst Afterglows and New Constraints on the Kilonova RateWhile 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 Search 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-raymore »
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are among the brightest and most energetic events in the universe. The duration and hardness distribution of GRBs has two clusters, now understood to reflect (at least) two different progenitors. Short-hard GRBs (SGRBs; T90 <2 s) arise from compact binary mergers, while long-soft GRBs (LGRBs; T90 >2 s) have been attributed to the collapse of peculiar massive stars (collapsars). The discovery of SN 1998bw/GRB 980425 marked the first association of a LGRB with a collapsar and AT 2017gfo/GRB 170817A/GW170817 marked the first association of a SGRB with a binary neutron star merger, producing also gravitational wave (GW). Here, we present the discovery of ZTF20abwysqy (AT2020scz), a fast-fading optical transient in the Fermi Satellite and the InterPlanetary Network (IPN) localization regions of GRB 200826A; X-ray and radio emission further confirm that this is the afterglow. Follow-up imaging (at rest-frame 16.5 days) reveals excess emission above the afterglow that cannot be explained as an underlying kilonova (KN), but is consistent with being the supernova (SN). Despite the GRB duration being short (rest-frame T90 of 0.65 s), our panchromatic follow-up data confirms a collapsar origin. GRB 200826A is the shortest LGRB found with an associated collapsar; it appears to sitmore »