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  1. Abstract

    The neighborhood of the Galactic black hole boasts a plethora of extended interstellar gas and dust features, as well as populations of compact (unresolved or marginally resolved) features such as the G objects. Most are well manifested in the infrared. To disentangle and characterize the infrared structure of the extended features and identify compact sources, we used 3.8μm (L′ filter) data from the NIRC2 imager at the Keck Observatory and 8.6μm (PAH1 filter) data from the VISIR imager at the Very Large Telescope to produce the highest-resolution mid-IR color temperature map of the inner half-parsec of the Galactic center to date. From this map, we compile a catalog of features that stand out from their background. In particular, we identify 33 compact sources that stand out against the local background temperature, 11 of which are newly identified and candidates for being members of the G object population. Additionally, we resolve and newly characterize the morphology of several known extended features. These results prepare the way for ongoing and future JWST studies that have access to a greater range of mid-infrared wavelengths and thus will allow for refined estimation of the trends of dust temperatures.

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  2. Abstract

    We present the first estimate of the intrinsic binary fraction of young stars across the central ≈0.4 pc surrounding the supermassive black hole (SMBH) at the Milky Way Galactic center (GC). This experiment searched for photometric variability in 102 spectroscopically confirmed young stars, using 119 nights of 10″ wide adaptive optics imaging observations taken at W. M. Keck Observatory over 16 yr in theK-[2.1μm] andH-[1.6μm] bands. We photometrically detected three binary stars, all of which are situated more than 1″ (0.04 pc) from the SMBH and one of which, S2-36, is newly reported here with spectroscopic confirmation. All are contact binaries or have photometric variability originating from stellar irradiation. To convert the observed binary fraction into an estimate of the underlying binary fraction, we determined the experimental sensitivity through detailed light-curve simulations, incorporating photometric effects of eclipses, irradiation, and tidal distortion in binaries. The simulations assumed a population of young binaries, with stellar ages (4 Myr) and masses matched to the most probable values measured for the GC young star population, and underlying binary system parameters (periods, mass ratios, and eccentricities) similar to those of local massive stars. As might be expected, our experimental sensitivity decreases for eclipses narrower in phase. The detections and simulations imply that the young, massive stars in the GC have a stellar binary fraction ≥71% (68% confidence), or ≥42% (95% confidence). This inferred GC young star binary fraction is consistent with that typically seen in young stellar populations in the solar neighborhood. Furthermore, our measured binary fraction is significantly higher than that recently reported by Chu et al. based on radial velocity measurements for stars ≲1″ of the SMBH. Constrained with these two studies, the probability that the same underlying young star binary fraction extends across the entire region is <1.4%. This tension provides support for a radial dependence of the binary star fraction, and therefore, for the dynamical predictions of binary merger and evaporation events close to the SMBH.

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  3. Abstract

    We use 23 yr of astrometric and radial velocity data on the orbit of the star S0-2 to constrain a hypothetical intermediate-mass black hole orbiting the massive black hole Sgr A* at the Galactic center. The data place upper limits on variations of the orientation of the stellar orbit at levels between 0.°02 and 0.°07 per year. We use a combination of analytic estimates and full numerical integrations of the orbit of S0-2 in the presence of a black hole binary. For a companion intermediate-mass black hole outside the orbit of S0-2 (1020 au), we find that a companion black hole with massmcbetween 103and 105Mis excluded, with a boundary behaving asacmc1/3. For a companion withac< 1020 au, a black hole with mass between 103and 105Mis excluded, withacmc1/2. These bounds arise from quadrupolar perturbations of the orbit of S0-2. Significantly stronger bounds on an inner companion arise from the fact that the location of S0-2 is measured relative to the bright emission of Sgr A* and that separation is perturbed by the “wobble” of Sgr A* about the center of mass between it and the companion. The result is a set of bounds as small as 400Mat 200 au; the numerical simulations suggest a bound from these effects varying asacmc1. We compare and contrast our results with those from a recent analysis by the GRAVITY collaboration.

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  4. Abstract

    The 1RXS J034231.8+121622 system consists of an M dwarf primary and a directly imaged low-mass stellar companion. We use high-resolution spectroscopic data from Keck/KPIC to estimate the objects' atmospheric parameters and radial velocities (RVs). Using PHOENIX stellar models, we find that the primary has a temperature of 3460 ± 50 K and a metallicity of 0.16 ± 0.04, while the secondary has a temperature of 2510 ± 50 K and a metallicity of0.130.11+0.12. Recent work suggests this system is associated with the Hyades, giving it an older age than previous estimates. Both metallicities agree with current Hyades [Fe/H] measurements (0.11–0.21). Using stellar evolutionary models, we obtain significantly higher masses for the objects, 0.30 ± 0.15Mand 0.08 ± 0.01M(84 ± 11MJup), respectively. Using the RVs and a new astrometry point from Keck/NIRC2, we find that the system is likely an edge-on, moderately eccentric (0.410.08+0.27) configuration. We also estimate the C/O ratio of both objects using custom grid models, obtaining 0.42 ± 0.10 (primary) and 0.55 ± 0.10 (companion). From these results, we confirm that this system most likely went through a binary star formation process in the Hyades. The significant changes in this system's parameters since its discovery highlight the importance of high-resolution spectroscopy for both orbital and atmospheric characterization of directly imaged companions.

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  5. Abstract

    The eccentricity of a substellar companion is an important tracer of its formation history. Directly imaged companions often present poorly constrained eccentricities. A recently developed prior framework for orbit fitting called “observable-based priors” has the advantage of improving biases in derived orbit parameters for objects with minimal phase coverage, which is the case for the majority of directly imaged companions. We use observable-based priors to fit the orbits of 21 exoplanets and brown dwarfs in an effort to obtain the eccentricity distributions with minimized biases. We present the objects’ individual posteriors compared to their previously derived distributions, showing in many cases a shift toward lower eccentricities. We analyze the companions’ eccentricity distribution at a population level, and compare this to the distributions obtained with the traditional uniform priors. We fit a Beta distribution to our posteriors using observable-based priors, obtaining shape parametersα=1.090.22+0.30andβ=1.420.25+0.33. This represents an approximately flat distribution of eccentricities. The derivedαandβparameters are consistent with the values obtained using uniform priors, though uniform priors lead to a tail at high eccentricities. We find that separating the population into high- and low-mass companions yields different distributions depending on the classification of intermediate-mass objects. We also determine via simulation that the minimal orbit coverage needed to give meaningful posteriors under the assumptions made for directly imaged planets is ≈15% of the inferred period of the orbit.

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  6. Abstract

    Sgr A* is the variable electromagnetic source associated with accretion onto the Galactic center supermassive black hole. While the near-infrared (NIR) variability of Sgr A* was shown to be consistent over two decades, unprecedented activity in 2019 challenges existing statistical models. We investigate the origin of this activity by recalibrating and reanalyzing all of our Keck Observatory Sgr A* imaging observations from 2005–2022. We present light curves from 69 observation epochs using the NIRC2 imager at 2.12μm with laser-guide star adaptive optics. These observations reveal that the mean luminosity of Sgr A* increased by a factor of ∼3 in 2019, and the 2019 light curves had higher variance than in all time periods we examined. We find that the 2020–2022 flux distribution is statistically consistent with the historical sample and model predictions, but with fewer bright measurements above 0.6 mJy at the ∼2σlevel. Since 2019, we have observed a maximumKs(2.2μm) flux of 0.9 mJy, compared to the highest pre-2019 flux of 2.0 mJy and highest 2019 flux of 5.6 mJy. Our results suggest that the 2019 activity was caused by a temporary accretion increase onto Sgr A*, possibly due to delayed accretion of tidally stripped gas from the gaseous object G2 in 2014. We also examine faint Sgr A* fluxes over a long time baseline to search for a quasi-steady quiescent state. We find that Sgr A* displays flux variations over a factor of ∼500, with no evidence for a quiescent state in the NIR.

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  7. Abstract

    We present new absolute proper-motion measurements for the Arches and Quintuplet clusters, two young massive star clusters near the Galactic center. Using multiepoch HST observations, we construct proper-motion catalogs for the Arches (∼35,000 stars) and Quintuplet (∼40,000 stars) fields in ICRF coordinates established using stars in common with the Gaia EDR3 catalog. The bulk proper motions of the clusters are measured to be (μα*,μδ) = (−0.80 ± 0.032, −1.89 ± 0.021) mas yr−1for the Arches and (μα*,μδ) = (−0.96 ± 0.032, −2.29 ± 0.023) mas yr−1for the Quintuplet, achieving ≳5× higher precision than past measurements. We place the first constraints on the properties of the cluster orbits that incorporate the uncertainty in their current line-of-sight distances. The clusters will not approach closer than ∼25 pc to Sgr A*, making it unlikely that they will inspiral into the nuclear star cluster within their lifetime. Further, the cluster orbits are not consistent with being circular; the average value ofrapo/rperiis ∼1.9 (equivalent to an eccentricity of ∼0.31) for both clusters. Lastly, we find that the clusters do not share a common orbit, challenging one proposed formation scenario in which the clusters formed from molecular clouds on the open stream orbit derived by Kruijssen et al. Meanwhile, our constraints on the birth location and velocity of the clusters offer mild support for a scenario in which the clusters formed via collisions between gas clouds on thex1andx2bar orbit families.

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  8. Context.The Galactic Center black hole and the nuclear star cluster are surrounded by a clumpy ring of gas and dust, the circumnuclear disk (CND), that rotates about them at a standoff distance of ≃1.5 pc. The mass and density of individual clumps in the CND are disputed.

    Aims.We seek to use H2to characterize the clump size distribution and to investigate the morphology and dynamics of the interface between the ionized interior layer of the CND and the molecular reservoir lying farther out (corresponding to the inner rim of the CND, illuminated in ultraviolet light by the central star cluster).

    Methods.We have observed two fields of approximately 20″ × 20″ in the CND at near-infrared wavelengths with the OSIRIS spectro-imager at the Keck Observatory. These two fields, located at the approaching and receding nodes of the CND, best display this interface. Our data cover two H2lines as well as the Brγline (tracing H II). We have developed the tool CubeFit, an original method for extracting maps of continuous physical parameters (such as the velocity field and velocity dispersion) from integral-field spectroscopy data, using regularization to largely preserve spatial resolution in regions of low signal-to-noise ratio.

    Results.This original method enables us to isolate compact, bright features in the interstellar medium of the CND. Several clumps in the southwestern field assume the appearance of filaments, many of which are parallel to one another. We conclude that these clumps cannot be self-gravitating.

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  9. Schmidt, Dirk ; Schreiber, Laura ; Vernet, Elise (Ed.)