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  1. Evans, Christopher J. ; Bryant, Julia J. ; Motohara, Kentaro (Ed.)
    The Wide-field Infrared Transient Explorer (WINTER) is a 1x1 degree infrared survey telescope under devel- opment at MIT and Caltech, and slated for commissioning at Palomar Observatory in 2021. WINTER is a seeing-limited infrared time-domain survey and has two main science goals: (1) the discovery of IR kilonovae and r-process materials from binary neutron star mergers and (2) the study of general IR transients, including supernovae, tidal disruption events, and transiting exoplanets around low mass stars. We plan to meet these science goals with technologies that are relatively new to astrophysical research: hybridized InGaAs sensors as an alternative to traditional, but expensive, HgCdTe arrays and an IR-optimized 1-meter COTS telescope. To mitigate risk, optimize development efforts, and ensure that WINTER meets its science objectives, we use model-based systems engineering (MBSE) techniques commonly featured in aerospace engineering projects. Even as ground-based instrumentation projects grow in complexity, they do not often have the budget for a full-time systems engineer. We present one example of systems engineering for the ground-based WINTER project, featuring software tools that allow students or staff to learn the fundamentals of MBSE and capture the results in a formalized software interface. We focus on the top-level science requirements withmore »a detailed example of how the goal of detecting kilonovae flows down to WINTER's optical design. In particular, we discuss new methods for tolerance simulations, eliminating stray light, and maximizing image quality of a fly's-eye design that slices the telescope's focus onto 6 non-buttable, IR detectors. We also include a discussion of safety constraints for a robotic telescope.« less
  2. Evans, Christopher J. ; Bryant, Julia J. ; Motohara, Kentaro (Ed.)
    The Wide-Field Infrared Transient Explorer (WINTER) is a new infrared time-domain survey instrument which will be deployed on a dedicated 1 meter robotic telescope at the Palomar Observatory. WINTER will perform a seeing-limited time domain survey of the infrared (IR) sky, with a particular emphasis on identifying r -process material in binary neutron star (BNS) merger remnants detected by LIGO. We describe the scientific goals and survey design of the WINTER instrument. With a dedicated trigger and the ability to map the full LIGO O4 positional error contour in the IR to a distance of 190 Mpc within four hours, WINTER will be a powerful kilonova discovery engine and tool for multi-messenger astrophysics investigations. In addition to follow-up observations of merging binaries, WINTER will facilitate a wide range of time-domain astronomical observations, all the while building up a deep coadded image of the static infrared sky suitable for survey science. WINTER's custom camera features six commercial large-format Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs) sensors and a tiled optical system which covers a <1-square-degree field of view with 90% fill factor. The instrument observes in Y, J and a short-H (Hs) band tuned to the long-wave cutoff of the InGaAs sensors, covering amore »wavelength range from 0.9 - 1.7 microns. We present the design of the WINTER instrument and current progress towards final integration at the Palomar Observatory and commissioning planned for mid-2021.« less
  3. 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