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  1. Abstract: Detecting gravitationally lensed supernovae is among the biggest challenges in astronomy. It involves a combination of two very rare phenomena: catching the transient signal of a stellar explosion in a distant galaxy and observing it through a nearly perfectly aligned foreground galaxy that deflects light towards the observer. Here we describe how high-cadence optical observations with the Zwicky Transient Facility, with its unparalleled large field of view, led to the detection of a multiply imaged type Ia supernova, SN Zwicky, also known as SN 2022qmx. Magnified nearly 25-fold, the system was found thanks to the standard candle nature of type Ia supernovae. High-spatial-resolution imaging with the Keck telescope resolved four images of the supernova with very small angular separation, corresponding to an Einstein radius of only θ E  = 0.167″ and almost identical arrival times. The small θ E and faintness of the lensing galaxy are very unusual, highlighting the importance of supernovae to fully characterize the properties of galaxy-scale gravitational lenses, including the impact of galaxy substructures. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 12, 2024
  2. Abstract The current Cepheid-calibrated distance ladder measurement of H 0 is reported to be in tension with the values inferred from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), assuming standard cosmology. However, some tip of the red giant branch (TRGB) estimates report H 0 in better agreement with the CMB. Hence, it is critical to reduce systematic uncertainties in local measurements to understand the Hubble tension. In this paper, we propose a uniform distance ladder between the second and third rungs, combining Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) observed by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) with a TRGB calibration of their absolute luminosity. A large, volume-limited sample of both calibrator and Hubble flow SNe Ia from the same survey minimizes two of the largest sources of systematics: host-galaxy bias and nonuniform photometric calibration. We present results from a pilot study using the existing TRGB distance to the host galaxy of ZTF SN Ia SN 2021rhu (aka ZTF21abiuvdk) in NGC7814. Combining the ZTF calibrator with a volume-limited sample from the first data release of ZTF Hubble flow SNe Ia, we infer H 0 = 76.94 ± 6.4 km s −1 Mpc −1 , an 8.3% measurement. The error budget is dominated by the single object calibrating the SN Ia luminosity in this pilot study. However, the ZTF sample includes already five other SNe Ia within ∼20 Mpc for which TRGB distances can be obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope. Finally, we present the prospects of building this distance ladder out to 80 Mpc with James Webb Space Telescope observations of more than 100 ZTF SNe Ia. 
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  3. Abstract

    Current and future optical and near-infrared wide-field surveys have the potential to find kilonovae, the optical and infrared counterparts to neutron star mergers, independently of gravitational-wave or high-energy gamma-ray burst triggers. The ability to discover fast and faint transients such as kilonovae largely depends on the area observed, the depth of those observations, the number of revisits per field in a given time frame, and the filters adopted by the survey; it also depends on the ability to perform rapid follow-up observations to confirm the nature of the transients. In this work, we assess kilonova detectability in existing simulations of the Legacy Survey of Space and Time strategy for the Vera C. Rubin Wide Fast Deep survey, with focus on comparing rolling to baseline cadences. Although currently available cadences can enable the detection of >300 kilonovae out to ∼1400 Mpc over the 10 year survey, we can expect only 3–32 kilonovae similar to GW170817 to be recognizable as fast-evolving transients. We also explore the detectability of kilonovae over the plausible parameter space, focusing on viewing angle and ejecta masses. We find that observations in redderizybands are crucial for identification of nearby (within 300 Mpc) kilonovae that could be spectroscopically classified more easily than more distant sources. Rubin’s potential for serendipitous kilonova discovery could be increased by gain of efficiency with the employment of individual 30 s exposures (as opposed to 2 × 15 s snap pairs), with the addition of red-band observations coupled with same-night observations ingorrbands, and possibly with further development of a new rolling-cadence strategy.

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  4. Using Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) observations, we identify a pair of "sibling" Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), i.e., hosted by the same galaxy at z = 0.0541. They exploded within 200 days from each other at a separation of 0.6″ corresponding to a projected distance of only 0.6 kpc. Performing SALT2 light curve fits to the gri ZTF photometry, we show that for these equally distant "standardizable candles", there is a difference of 2 magnitudes in their rest frame B-band peaks, and the fainter SN has a significantly red SALT2 colour c=0.57± 0.04, while the stretch values x1 of the two SNe are similar, suggesting that the fainter SN is attenuated by dust in the interstellar medium of the host galaxy. We use these measurements to infer the SALT2 colour standardization parameter, β = 3.5 ± 0.3, independent of the underlying cosmology and Malmquist bias. Assuming the colour excess is entirely due to dust, the result differs by 2σ from the average Milky-Way total-to-selective extinction ratio, but is in good agreement with the colour-brightness corrections empirically derived from the most recent SN Ia Hubble-Lemaitre diagram fits. Thus we suggest that SN "siblings", which will increasingly be discovered in the coming years, can be used to probe the validity of the colour and lightcurve shape corrections using in SN Ia cosmology while avoiding important systematic effects in their inference from global multi-parameter fits to inhomogeneous data-sets, and also help constrain the role of interstellar dust in SN Ia cosmology. 
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    Supernova (SN) siblings – two or more SNe in the same parent galaxy – are useful tools for exploring progenitor stellar populations as well as properties of the host galaxies such as distance, star-formation rate, dust extinction, and metallicity. Since the average SN rate for a Milky Way-type galaxy is just one per century, a large imaging survey is required to discover an appreciable sample of SN siblings. From the wide-field Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) Bright Transient Survey (which aims for spectroscopic completeness for all transients which peak brighter than r < 18.5 mag) we present 10 SN siblings in five parent galaxies. For each of these families, we analyse the SN’s location within the host and its underlying stellar population, finding agreement with expectations that SNe from more massive progenitors are found nearer to their host core and in regions of more active star formation. We also present an analysis of the relative rates of core collapse and thermonuclear SN siblings, finding a significantly lower ratio than past SN sibling samples due to the unbiased nature of the ZTF.

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  6. 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 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-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. 
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  8. Abstract

    We report our Spitzer Space Telescope observations and detections of the binary neutron star merger GW170817. At 4.5 μm, GW170817 is detected at 21.9  mag AB at +43 days and 23.9 mag AB at +74 days after merger. At 3.6 μm, GW170817 is not detected to a limit of 23.2 mag AB at +43 days and 23.1 mag AB at  +74 days. Our detections constitute the latest and reddest constraints on the kilonova/macronova emission and composition of heavy elements. The 4.5 μm luminosity at this late phase cannot be explained by elements exclusively from the first abundance peak of the r-process. Moreover, the steep decline in the Spitzer band, with a power-law index of 3.4 ± 0.2, can be explained by a few of the heaviest isotopes with half-life around 14  d dominating the luminosity (e.g. 140Ba, 143Pr, 147Nd, 156Eu, 191Os, 223Ra, 225Ra, 233Pa, 234Th) or a model with lower deposition efficiency. This data offers evidence that the heaviest elements in the second and third r-process abundance peak were indeed synthesized. Our conclusion is verified by both analytics and network simulations and robust despite intricacies and uncertainties in the nuclear physics. Future observations with Spitzer and James Webb Space Telescope will further illuminate the relative abundance of the synthesized heavy elements.

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    The existence of cosmic superstrings may be probed by astronomical time domain surveys. When crossing the line of sight to point-like sources, strings produce a distinctive microlensing signature. We consider two avenues to hunt for a relic population of superstring loops: frequent monitoring of (1) stars in Andromeda, lensed by loops in the haloes of the Milky-Way and Andromeda and (2) supernovae at cosmological distances, lensed by loops in the intergalactic medium. We assess the potential of such experiments to detect and/or constrain strings with a range of tensions, 10−15 ≲ Gμ/c2 ≲ 10−6. The practical sensitivity is tied to cadence of observations which we explore in detail. We forecast that high-cadence monitoring of ∼105 stars on the far side of Andromeda over a year-long period will detect microlensing events if Gμ/c2 ∼ 10−13, while ∼106 stars will detect events if 10−13.5 < Gμ/c2 < 10−11.5; the upper and lower bounds of the accessible tension range continue to expand as the number of stars rises. We also analyse the ability to reject models in the absence of fluctuations. While challenging, these studies are within reach of forthcoming time-domain surveys. Supernova observations can hypothetically constrain models with 10−12 < Gμ/c2 < 10−6 without any optimization of the survey cadence. However, the event rate forecast suggests it will be difficult to reject models of interest. As a demonstration, we use observations from the Pantheon Type Ia supernova cosmology data set to place modest constraints on the number density of cosmic superstrings in a poorly tested region of the parameter space.

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