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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  2. Abstract The discovery of the electromagnetic counterpart to the binary neutron star (NS) merger GW170817 has opened the era of gravitational-wave multimessenger astronomy. Rapid identification of the optical/infrared kilonova enabled a precise localization of the source, which paved the way to deep multiwavelength follow-up and its myriad of related science results. Fully exploiting this new territory of exploration requires the acquisition of electromagnetic data from samples of NS mergers and other gravitational-wave sources. After GW170817, the frontier is now to map the diversity of kilonova properties and provide more stringent constraints on the Hubble constant, and enable new tests of fundamental physics. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time can play a key role in this field in the 2020s, when an improved network of gravitational-wave detectors is expected to reach a sensitivity that will enable the discovery of a high rate of merger events involving NSs (∼tens per year) out to distances of several hundred megaparsecs. We design comprehensive target-of-opportunity observing strategies for follow-up of gravitational-wave triggers that will make the Rubin Observatory the premier instrument for discovery and early characterization of NS and other compact-object mergers, and yet unknown classes of gravitational-wave events.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. We present 42 rapidly evolving (time spent above half-maximum brightness t1/2<12d) extragalactic transients from Phase I of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), of which 22 have spectroscopic classifications. This is one of the largest systematically selected samples of day-timescale transients, and the first with spectroscopic classifications. Most can be classified as core-collapse supernovae (SNe), and we identify several predominant subtypes: (1) subluminous Type IIb or Type Ib SNe; (2) luminous Type Ibn or hybrid IIn/Ibn SNe; and (3) radio-loud, short-duration luminous events similar to AT2018cow. We conclude that rates quoted in the literature for rapidly evolving extragalactic transients are dominated by the subluminous events (mostly Type IIb SNe). From our spectroscopic classifications and radio, X-ray, and millimeter-band upper limits, we are motivated to consider the AT2018cow-like objects a distinct class, and use ZTF's systematic classification experiments to calculate that their rate does not exceed 0.1% of the local core-collapse SN rate, in agreement with previous work. By contrast, most other events are simply the extreme of a continuum of established SN types extending to ordinary timescales. The light curves of our objects are very similar to those of unclassified events in the literature, illustrating how spectroscopically classified samples of low-redshiftmore »objects in shallow surveys like ZTF can be used to photometrically classify larger numbers of events at higher redshift.« less
  7. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are among the brightest and most energetic events in the universe. The duration and hardness distribution of GRBs has two clusters, now understood to reflect (at least) two different progenitors. Short-hard GRBs (SGRBs; T90 <2 s) arise from compact binary mergers, while long-soft GRBs (LGRBs; T90 >2 s) have been attributed to the collapse of peculiar massive stars (collapsars). The discovery of SN 1998bw/GRB 980425 marked the first association of a LGRB with a collapsar and AT 2017gfo/GRB 170817A/GW170817 marked the first association of a SGRB with a binary neutron star merger, producing also gravitational wave (GW). Here, we present the discovery of ZTF20abwysqy (AT2020scz), a fast-fading optical transient in the Fermi Satellite and the InterPlanetary Network (IPN) localization regions of GRB 200826A; X-ray and radio emission further confirm that this is the afterglow. Follow-up imaging (at rest-frame 16.5 days) reveals excess emission above the afterglow that cannot be explained as an underlying kilonova (KN), but is consistent with being the supernova (SN). Despite the GRB duration being short (rest-frame T90 of 0.65 s), our panchromatic follow-up data confirms a collapsar origin. GRB 200826A is the shortest LGRB found with an associated collapsar; it appears to sitmore »on the brink between a successful and a failed collapsar. Our discovery is consistent with the hypothesis that most collapsars fail to produce ultra-relativistic jets.« less