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  1. Abstract We present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging of the site of SN 2015bh in the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 2770 taken between 2017 and 2019, nearly four years after the peak of the explosion. In 2017–2018, the transient fades steadily in optical filters before declining more slowly to F814W = −7.1 mag in 2019, ≈4 mag below the level of its eruptive luminous blue variable (LBV) progenitor observed with HST in 2008–2009. The source fades at a constant color of F555W − F814W = 0.4 mag until 2018, similar to SN 2009ip and consistent with a spectrum dominated by interaction of the ejecta with circumstellar material (CSM). A deep optical spectrum obtained in 2021 lacks signatures of ongoing interaction ( L H α ≲ 10 38 erg s −1 for broadened emission ≲2000 km s −1 ), but indicates the presence of a nearby H ii region (≲300 pc). The color evolution of the fading source makes it unlikely that emission from a scattered-light echo or binary OB companion of the progenitor contributes significantly to the flattening of the late-time light curve. The remaining emission in 2019 may plausibly be attributed an evolved/inflated companion or an unresolved (≲3 pc),more »young stellar cluster. Importantly, the color evolution of SN 2015bh rules out scenarios in which the surviving progenitor is obscured by nascent dust and does not clearly indicate a transition to a hotter, optically faint state. The simplest explanation is that the massive progenitor did not survive. SN 2015bh likely represents a remarkable example of the terminal explosion of a massive star preceded by decades of end-stage eruptive variability.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  2. Abstract We present the discovery of an exceptional dimming event in a cool supergiant star in the Local Volume spiral M51. The star, dubbed M51-DS1, was found as part of a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) search for failed supernovae (SNe). The supergiant, which is plausibly associated with a very young (≲6 Myr) stellar population, showed clear variability (amplitude Δ F 814 W ≈ 0.7 mag) in numerous HST images obtained between 1995 and 2016, before suddenly dimming by >2 mag in F 814 W sometime between late 2017 and mid-2019. In follow-up data from 2021, the star rebrightened, ruling out a failed supernova. Prior to its near-disappearance, the star was luminous and red ( M F 814 W ≲ − 7.6 mag, F 606 W − F 814 W = 1.9–2.2 mag). Modeling of the pre-dimming spectral energy distribution of the star favors a highly reddened, very luminous ( log [ L / L ⊙ ] = 5.4 –5.7) star with T eff ≈ 3700–4700 K, indicative of a cool yellow or post-red supergiant (RSG) with an initial mass of ≈26–40 M ⊙ . However, the local interstellar extinction and circumstellar extinction are uncertain, and could be lower: the near-IRmore »colors are consistent with an RSG, which would be cooler ( T eff ≲ 3700 K) and slightly less luminous ( log [ L / L ⊙ ] = 5.2 –5.3), giving an inferred initial mass of ≈19–22 M ⊙ . In either case, the dimming may be explained by a rare episode of enhanced mass loss that temporarily obscures the star, potentially a more extreme counterpart to the 2019–2020 “Great Dimming” of Betelgeuse. Given the emerging evidence that massive evolved stars commonly exhibit variability that can mimic a disappearing star, our work highlights a substantial challenge in identifying true failed SNe.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. Abstract A thermonuclear explosion triggered by a He-shell detonation on a carbon–oxygen white-dwarf core has been predicted to have strong UV line blanketing at early times due to the iron-group elements produced during He-shell burning. We present the photometric and spectroscopic observations of SN 2016dsg, a subluminous peculiar Type I supernova consistent with a thermonuclear explosion involving a thick He shell. With a redshift of 0.04, the i -band peak absolute magnitude is derived to be around −17.5. The object is located far away from its host, an early-type galaxy, suggesting it originated from an old stellar population. The spectra collected after the peak are unusually red, show strong UV line blanketing and weak O i λ 7773 absorption lines, and do not evolve significantly over 30 days. An absorption line around 9700–10500 Å is detected in the near-infrared spectrum and is likely from the unburnt He in the ejecta. The spectroscopic evolution is consistent with the thermonuclear explosion models for a sub-Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarf with a thick He shell, while the photometric evolution is not well described by existing models.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 28, 2023
  4. Abstract We present high-cadence optical and ultraviolet light curves of the normal Type Ia supernova (SN) 2021aefx, which shows an early bump during the first two days of observation. This bump may be a signature of interaction between the exploding white dwarf and a nondegenerate binary companion, or it may be intrinsic to the white dwarf explosion mechanism. In the case of the former, the short duration of the bump implies a relatively compact main-sequence companion star, although this conclusion is viewing-angle dependent. Our best-fit companion-shocking and double-detonation models both overpredict the UV luminosity during the bump, and existing nickel-shell models do not match the strength and timescale of the bump. We also present nebular spectra of SN 2021aefx, which do not show the hydrogen or helium emission expected from a nondegenerate companion, as well as a radio nondetection that rules out all symbiotic progenitor systems and most accretion disk winds. Our analysis places strong but conflicting constraints on the progenitor of SN 2021aefx; no current model can explain all of our observations.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  5. Abstract We present high-cadence optical, ultraviolet (UV), and near-infrared data of the nearby ( D ≈ 23 Mpc) Type II supernova (SN) 2021yja. Many Type II SNe show signs of interaction with circumstellar material (CSM) during the first few days after explosion, implying that their red supergiant (RSG) progenitors experience episodic or eruptive mass loss. However, because it is difficult to discover SNe early, the diversity of CSM configurations in RSGs has not been fully mapped. SN 2021yja, first detected within ≈ 5.4 hours of explosion, shows some signatures of CSM interaction (high UV luminosity and radio and x-ray emission) but without the narrow emission lines or early light-curve peak that can accompany CSM. Here we analyze the densely sampled early light curve and spectral series of this nearby SN to infer the properties of its progenitor and CSM. We find that the most likely progenitor was an RSG with an extended envelope, encompassed by low-density CSM. We also present archival Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the host galaxy of SN 2021yja, which allows us to place a stringent upper limit of ≲ 9 M ☉ on the progenitor mass. However, this is in tension with some aspects of themore »SN evolution, which point to a more massive progenitor. Our analysis highlights the need to consider progenitor structure when making inferences about CSM properties, and that a comprehensive view of CSM tracers should be made to give a fuller view of the last years of RSG evolution.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
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  7. Abstract The nova rate in the Milky Way remains largely uncertain, despite its vital importance in constraining models of Galactic chemical evolution as well as understanding progenitor channels for Type Ia supernovae. The rate has been previously estimated to be in the range of ≈10–300 yr −1 , either based on extrapolations from a handful of very bright optical novae or the nova rates in nearby galaxies; both methods are subject to debatable assumptions. The total discovery rate of optical novae remains much smaller (≈5–10 yr −1 ) than these estimates, even with the advent of all-sky optical time-domain surveys. Here, we present a systematic sample of 12 spectroscopically confirmed Galactic novae detected in the first 17 months of Palomar Gattini-IR (PGIR), a wide-field near-infrared time-domain survey. Operating in the J band (≈1.2 μ m), which is significantly less affected by dust extinction compared to optical bands, the extinction distribution of the PGIR sample is highly skewed to a large extinction values (>50% of events obscured by A V ≳ 5 mag). Using recent estimates for the distribution of Galactic mass and dust, we show that the extinction distribution of the PGIR sample is commensurate with dust models. The PGIRmore »extinction distribution is inconsistent with that reported in previous optical searches (null-hypothesis probability <0.01%), suggesting that a large population of highly obscured novae have been systematically missed in previous optical searches. We perform the first quantitative simulation of a 3 π time-domain survey to estimate the Galactic nova rate using PGIR, and derive a rate of ≈ 43.7 − 8.7 + 19.5 yr −1 . Our results suggest that all-sky near-infrared time-domain surveys are well poised to uncover the Galactic nova population.« less