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    Luminous fast blue optical transients (LFBOTs) – the prototypical example being AT 2018cow – are a rare class of events whose origins are poorly understood. They are characterized by rapid evolution, featureless blue spectra at early times, and luminous X-ray and radio emission. LFBOTs thus far have been found exclusively at small projected offsets from star-forming host galaxies. We present Hubble Space Telescope, Gemini, Chandra, and Very Large Array observations of a new LFBOT, AT 2023fhn. The Hubble Space Telescope data reveal a large offset (>3.5 half-light radii) from the two closest galaxies, both at redshift z ∼ 0.24. The location of AT 2023fhn is in stark contrast with previous events, and demonstrates that LFBOTs can occur in a range of galactic environments.

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    We report the discovery of six new magnetar counterpart candidates from deep near-infrared Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging. The new candidates are among a sample of 19 magnetars for which we present HST data obtained between 2018 and 2020. We confirm the variability of previously established near-infrared counterparts, and newly identify candidates for PSR J1622−4950, Swift J1822.3−1606, CXOU J171405.7−381031, Swift J1833−0832, Swift J1834.9−0846, and AX J1818.8−1559 based on their proximity to X-ray localizations. The new candidates are compared with the existing counterpart population in terms of their colours, magnitudes, and near-infrared to X-ray spectral indices. We find two candidates for AX J1818 that are both consistent with previously established counterparts. The other new candidates are likely to be chance alignments, or otherwise have a different origin for their near-infrared emission not previously seen in magnetar counterparts. Further observations and studies of these candidates are needed to firmly establish their nature.

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    It is well established that magnetars are neutron stars with extreme magnetic fields and young ages, but the evolutionary pathways to their creation are still uncertain. Since most massive stars are in binaries, if magnetars are a frequent result of core-collapse supernovae, some fractions are expected to have a bound companion at the time of observation. In this paper, we utilize literature constraints, including deep Hubble Space Telescope imaging, to search for bound stellar companions to magnetars. The magnitude and colour measurements are interpreted in the context of binary population synthesis predictions. We find two candidates for stellar companions associated with CXOU J171405.7–381031 and SGR 0755–2933, based on their J–H colours and H-band absolute magnitudes. Overall, the proportion of the Galactic magnetar population with a plausibly stellar near-infrared (NIR) counterpart candidate, based on their magnitudes and colours, is between 5 and 10 per cent. This is consistent with a population synthesis prediction of 5 per cent, for the fraction of core-collapse neutron stars arising from primaries that remain bound to their companion after the supernova. These results are therefore consistent with magnetars being drawn in an unbiased way from the natal core-collapse neutron star population, but some contribution from alternative progenitor channels cannot be ruled out.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Aims. We present the results of three commissioning H  I observations obtained with the MeerKAT radio telescope. These observations make up part of the preparation for the forthcoming MHONGOOSE nearby galaxy survey, which is a MeerKAT large survey project that will study the accretion of gas in galaxies and the link between gas and star formation. Methods. We used the available H  I data sets, along with ancillary data at other wavelengths, to study the morphology of the MHONGOOSE sample galaxy, ESO 302-G014, which is a nearby gas-rich dwarf galaxy. Results. We find that ESO 302-G014 has a lopsided, asymmetric outer disc with a low column density. In addition, we find a tail or filament of H  I clouds extending away from the galaxy, as well as an isolated H  I cloud some 20 kpc to the south of the galaxy. We suggest that these features indicate a minor interaction with a low-mass galaxy. Optical imaging shows a possible dwarf galaxy near the tail, but based on the current data, we cannot confirm any association with ESO 302-G014. Nonetheless, an interaction scenario with some kind of low-mass companion is still supported by the presence of a significant amount of molecular gas, which is almost equal to the stellar mass, and a number of prominent stellar clusters, which suggest recently triggered star formation. Conclusions. These data show that MeerKAT produces exquisite imaging data. The forthcoming full-depth survey observations of ESO 302-G014 and other sample galaxies will, therefore, offer insights into the fate of neutral gas as it moves from the intergalactic medium onto galaxies. 
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  5. null (Ed.)