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  1. ABSTRACT

    Active galactic nuclei (AGNs) make up about 35 per cent of the more than 250 sources detected in very high-energy (VHE) gamma rays to date with the imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. Apart from four nearby radio galaxies and two AGNs of unknown type, all known VHE AGNs are blazars. Knowledge of the cosmological redshift of gamma-ray blazars is key to enabling the study of their intrinsic emission properties, as the interaction between gamma rays and the extragalactic background light (EBL) results in a spectral softening. Therefore, the redshift determination exercise is crucial to indirectly placing tight constraints on the EBL density, and to studying blazar population evolution across cosmic time. Due to the powerful relativistic jets in blazars, most of their host galaxies’ spectral features are outshined, and dedicated high signal-to-noise (S/N) spectroscopic observations are required. Deep medium- to high-resolution spectroscopy of 33 gamma-ray blazar optical counterparts was performed with the European Southern Observatory, New Technology Telescope, Keck II telescope, Shane 3-metre telescope, and the Southern African Large Telescope. From the sample, spectra from 25 objects display spectral features or are featureless and have high S/N. The other eight objects have low-quality featureless spectra. We systematically searched for absorption and emission features and estimated, when possible, the fractional host galaxy flux in the measured total flux. Our measurements yielded 14 firm spectroscopic redshifts, ranging from 0.0838 to 0.8125, one tentative redshift, and two lower limits: one at $z > 0.382$ and the other at z > 0.629.

     
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  2. Context. Standing and moving shocks in relativistic astrophysical jets are very promising sites for particle acceleration to large Lorentz factors and for the emission from the radio up to the γ -ray band. They are thought to be responsible for at least part of the observed variability in radio-loud active galactic nuclei. Aims. We aim to simulate the interactions of moving shock waves with standing recollimation shocks in structured and magnetized relativistic jets and to characterize the profiles of connected flares in the radio light curve. Methods. Using the relativistic magneto-hydrodynamic code MPI-AMRVAC and a radiative transfer code in post-processing, we explore the influence of the magnetic-field configuration and transverse stratification of an over-pressured jet on its morphology, on the moving shock dynamics, and on the emitted radio light curve. First, we investigate different large-scale magnetic fields with their effects on the standing shocks and on the stratified jet morphology. Secondly, we study the interaction of a moving shock wave with the standing shocks. We calculated the synthetic synchrotron maps and radio light curves and analyze the variability at two frequencies 1 and 15.3 GHz and for several observation angles. Finally, we compare the characteristics of our simulated light curves with radio flares observed from the blazar 3C 273 with the Owens Valley Radio Observatory and Very Long Baseline Array in the MOJAVE survey between 2008 and 2019. Results. We find that in a structured over-pressured relativistic jet, the presence of the large-scale magnetic field structure changes the properties of the standing shock waves and leads to an opening in the jet. The interaction between waves from inner and outer jet components can produce strong standing shocks. When crossing such standing shocks, moving shock waves accompanying overdensities injected in the base of the jet cause very luminous radio flares. The observation of the temporal structure of these flares under different viewing angles probes the jet at different optical depths. At 1 GHz and for small angles, the self-absorption caused by the moving shock wave becomes more important and leads to a drop in the observed flux after it interacts with the brightest standing knot. A weak asymmetry is seen in the shape of the simulated flares, resulting from the remnant emission of the shocked standing shocks. The characteristics of the simulated flares and the correlation of peaks in the light curve with the crossing of moving and standing shocks favor this scenario as an explanation of the observed radio flares of 3C 273. 
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  3. Abstract Dark matter is a key piece of the current cosmological scenario, with weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) a leading dark matter candidate. WIMPs have not been detected in their conventional parameter space (100 GeV ≲ M χ ≲ 100 TeV), a mass range accessible with current Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes. As ultraheavy dark matter (UHDM; M χ ≳ 100 TeV) has been suggested as an underexplored alternative to the WIMP paradigm, we search for an indirect dark matter annihilation signal in a higher mass range (up to 30 PeV) with the VERITAS γ -ray observatory. With 216 hr of observations of four dwarf spheroidal galaxies, we perform an unbinned likelihood analysis. We find no evidence of a γ -ray signal from UHDM annihilation above the background fluctuation for any individual dwarf galaxy nor for a joint-fit analysis, and consequently constrain the velocity-weighted annihilation cross section of UHDM for dark matter particle masses between 1 TeV and 30 PeV. We additionally set constraints on the allowed radius of a composite UHDM particle. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  4. Context. In February 2017 the blazar OJ 287, one of the best super-massive binary-black-hole-system candidates, was detected for the first time at very high energies (VHEs; E  > 100 GeV) with the ground-based γ -ray observatory VERITAS. Aims. Very high energy γ rays are thought to be produced in the near vicinity of the central engine in active galactic nuclei. For this reason, and with the main goal of providing useful information for the characterization of the physical mechanisms connected with the observed teraelectronvolt flaring event, we investigate the parsec-scale source properties by means of high-resolution very long baseline interferometry observations. Methods. We use 86 GHz Global Millimeter-VLBI Array (GMVA) observations from 2015 to 2017 and combine them with additional multiwavelength radio observations at different frequencies from other monitoring programs. We investigate the source structure by modeling the brightness distribution with two-dimensional Gaussian components in the visibility plane. Results. In the GMVA epoch following the source VHE activity, we find a new jet feature (labeled K) at ∼0.2 mas from the core region and located in between two quasi-stationary components (labeled S1 and S2). Multiple periods of enhanced activity are detected at different radio frequencies before and during the VHE flaring state. Conclusions. Based on the findings of this work, we identify as a possible trigger for the VHE flaring emission during the early months of 2017 the passage of a new jet feature through a recollimation shock (represented by the model-fit component S1) in a region of the jet located at a de-projected distance of ∼10 pc from the radio core. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Context. Blazars are the most numerous class of high-energy (HE; E ∼ 50 MeV−100 GeV) and very high-energy (VHE; E ∼ 100 GeV−10 TeV) gamma-ray emitters. Currently, a measured spectroscopic redshift is available for only about 50% of gamma-ray BL Lacertae objects (BL Lacs), mainly due to the difficulty in measuring reliable redshifts from their nearly featureless continuum-dominated optical spectra. The knowledge of the redshift is fundamental for understanding the emission from blazars, for population studies and also for indirect studies of the extragalactic background light and searches for Lorentz invariance violation and axion-like particles using blazars. Aims. This paper is the first in a series of papers that aim to measure the redshift of a sample of blazars likely to be detected with the upcoming Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), a ground-based gamma-ray observatory. Methods. Monte Carlo simulations were performed to select those hard spectrum gamma-ray blazars detected with the Fermi -LAT telescope still lacking redshift measurements, but likely to be detected by CTA in 30 hours of observing time or less. Optical observing campaigns involving deep imaging and spectroscopic observations were organised to efficiently constrain their redshifts. We performed deep medium- to high-resolution spectroscopy of 19 blazar optical counterparts with the Keck II, SALT, and ESO NTT telescopes. We searched systematically for spectral features and, when possible, we estimated the contribution of the host galaxy to the total flux. Results. We measured eleven firm spectroscopic redshifts with values ranging from 0.1116 to 0.482, one tentative redshift, three redshift lower limits including one at z ≥ 0.449 and another at z ≥ 0.868. Four BL Lacs show featureless spectra. 
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  6. Abstract

    The Breakthrough Listen Initiative is conducting a program using multiple telescopes around the world to search for “technosignatures”: artificial transmitters of extraterrestrial origin from beyond our solar system. The Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) Collaboration joined this program in 2018 and provides the capability to search for one particular technosignature: optical pulses of a few nanoseconds in duration detectable over interstellar distances. We report here on the analysis and results of dedicated VERITAS observations of Breakthrough Listen targets conducted in 2019 and 2020 and of archival VERITAS data collected since 2012. Thirty hours of dedicated observations of 136 targets and 249 archival observations of 140 targets were analyzed and did not reveal any signals consistent with a technosignature. The results are used to place limits on the fraction of stars hosting transmitting civilizations. We also discuss the minimum pulse sensitivity of our observations and present VERITAS observations of CALIOP: a space-based pulsed laser on board the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations. The detection of these pulses with VERITAS, using the analysis techniques developed for our technosignature search, allows a test of our analysis efficiency and serves as an important proof of principle.

     
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  7. Extragalactic background light (EBL) plays an important role in cosmology since it traces the history of galaxy formation and evolution. Such diffuse radiation from near-UV to far-infrared wavelengths can interact with γ -rays from distant sources such as active galactic nuclei (AGNs), and is responsible for the high-energy absorption observed in their spectra. However, probing the EBL from γ -ray spectra of AGNs is not trivial due to internal processes that can mimic its effect. Such processes are usually taken into account in terms of curvature of the intrinsic spectrum. Hence, an improper choice of parametrization for the latter can seriously affect EBL reconstruction. In this paper, we propose a statistical approach that avoids a priori assumptions on the intrinsic spectral curvature and that, for each source, selects the best-fit model on a solid statistical basis. By combining the Fermi -LAT observations of 490 blazars, we determine the γ -ray-inferred level of EBL for various state-of-the-art EBL models. We discuss the EBL level obtained from the spectra of both BL Lacs and flat spectrum radio quasars (FSRQ) in order to investigate the impact of internal absorption in different classes of objects. We further scrutinize constraints on the EBL evolution from γ -ray observations by reconstructing the EBL level in four redshift ranges, up to z  ∼ 2.5. The approach implemented in this paper, carefully addressing the question of the modeling of the intrinsic emission at the source, can serve as a solid stepping stone for studies of hundreds of high-quality spectra acquired by next-generation γ -ray instruments. 
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  8. Abstract

    We report the detection of very high energy gamma-ray emission from the blazar S3 1227+25 (VER J1230+253) with the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS). VERITAS observations of the source were triggered by the detection of a hard-spectrum GeV flare on 2015 May 15 with the Fermi-Large Area Telescope (LAT). A combined 5 hr VERITAS exposure on May 16 and 18 resulted in a strong 13σdetection with a differential photon spectral index, Γ = 3.8 ± 0.4, and a flux level at 9% of the Crab Nebula above 120 GeV. This also triggered target-of-opportunity observations with Swift, optical photometry, polarimetry, and radio measurements, also presented in this work, in addition to the VERITAS and Fermi-LAT data. A temporal analysis of the gamma-ray flux during this period finds evidence of a shortest variability timescale ofτobs= 6.2 ± 0.9 hr, indicating emission from compact regions within the jet, and the combined gamma-ray spectrum shows no strong evidence of a spectral cutoff. An investigation into correlations between the multiwavelength observations found evidence of optical and gamma-ray correlations, suggesting a single-zone model of emission. Finally, the multiwavelength spectral energy distribution is well described by a simple one-zone leptonic synchrotron self-Compton radiation model.

     
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  9. Abstract The ground-based gamma-ray observatory Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS, https://veritas.sao.arizona.edu/ ) is sensitive to photons of astrophysical origin with energies in the range between ≈85 GeV and ≈30 TeV. The instrument consists of four 12 m diameter imaging Cherenkov telescopes operating at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona. VERITAS started four-telescope operations in 2007 and collects about 1100 hr of good-weather data per year. The VERITAS collaboration has published over 100 journal articles since 2008 reporting on gamma-ray observations of a large variety of objects: Galactic sources like supernova remnants, pulsar wind nebulae, and binary systems; extragalactic sources like star-forming galaxies, dwarf-spheroidal galaxies, and highly variable active galactic nuclei. This note presents VTSCat: the catalog of high-level data products from all VERITAS publications. 
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