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    Rapid identification of the optical counterparts of neutron star (NS) merger events discovered by gravitational wave detectors may require observing a large error region and sifting through a large number of transients to identify the object of interest. Given the expense of spectroscopic observations, a question arises: How can we utilize photometric observations for candidate prioritization, and what kinds of photometric observations are needed to achieve this goal? NS merger kilonova exhibits low ejecta mass (∼5 × 10−2 M⊙) and a rapidly evolving photospheric radius (with a velocity ∼0.2c). As a consequence, these sources display rapid optical-flux evolution. Indeed, selection based on fast flux variations is commonly used for young supernovae and NS mergers. In this study, we leverage the best currently available flux-limited transient survey – the Zwicky Transient Facility Bright Transient Survey – to extend and quantify this approach. We focus on selecting transients detected in a 3-day cadence survey and observed at a one-day cadence. We explore their distribution in the phase space defined by g–r, $\dot{g}$, and $\dot{r}$. Our analysis demonstrates that for a significant portion of the time during the first week, the kilonova AT 2017gfo stands out in this phase space. It is important to note that this investigation is subject to various biases and challenges; nevertheless, it suggests that certain photometric observations can be leveraged to identify transients with the highest probability of being fast-evolving events. We also find that a large fraction (≈75 per cent) of the transient candidates with $\vert\dot{g}\vert>0.7$ mag d−1, are cataclysmic variables or active galactic nuclei with radio counterparts.

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  2. Abstract

    The fate of stars in the zero-age main-sequence (ZAMS) range ≈8–12Mis unclear. They could evolve to form white dwarfs or explode as electron-capture supernovae (SNe) or iron core-collapse SNe (CCSNe). Even though the initial mass function indicates that this mass range should account for over 40% of all CCSN progenitors, few have been observationally confirmed, likely due to the faintness and rapid evolution of some of these transients. In this paper, we present a sample of nine Ca-rich/O-poor Type IIb SNe detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility with progenitors likely in this mass range. These sources have a [Caii]λλ7291, 7324/[Oi]λλ6300, 6364 flux ratio of ≳2 in their nebular spectra. Comparing the measured [Oi] luminosity (≲1039erg s−1) and derived oxygen mass (≈0.01M) with theoretical models, we infer that the progenitor ZAMS mass for these explosions is less than 12M. The ejecta properties (Mej≲ 1MandEkin∼ 1050erg) are also consistent. The low ejecta mass of these sources indicates a class of strongly-stripped SNe that is a transition between the regular stripped-envelope SNe and ultra-stripped SNe. The progenitor could be stripped by a main-sequence companion and result in the formation of a neutron star−main sequence binary. Such binaries have been suggested to be progenitors of neutron star−white dwarf systems that could merge within a Hubble time and be detectable with LISA.

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  3. Abstract The detonation of a thin (≲0.03 M ⊙ ) helium shell (He-shell) atop a ∼1 M ⊙ white dwarf (WD) is a promising mechanism to explain normal Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), while thicker He-shells and less massive WDs may explain some recently observed peculiar SNe Ia. We present observations of SN 2020jgb, a peculiar SN Ia discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). Near maximum brightness, SN 2020jgb is slightly subluminous (ZTF g -band absolute magnitude −18.7 mag ≲ M g ≲ −18.2 mag depending on the amount of host-galaxy extinction) and shows an unusually red color (0.2 mag ≲ g ZTF − r ZTF ≲ 0.4 mag) due to strong line-blanketing blueward of ∼5000 Å. These properties resemble those of SN 2018byg, a peculiar SN Ia consistent with an He-shell double detonation (DDet) SN. Using detailed radiative transfer models, we show that the optical spectroscopic and photometric evolution of SN 2020jgb is broadly consistent with a ∼0.95–1.00 M ⊙ (C/O core + He-shell) progenitor ignited by a ≳0.1 M ⊙ He-shell. However, one-dimensional radiative transfer models without non-local-thermodynamic-equilibrium treatment cannot accurately characterize the line-blanketing features, making the actual shell mass uncertain. We detect a prominent absorption feature at ∼1 μ m in the near-infrared (NIR) spectrum of SN 2020jgb, which might originate from unburnt helium in the outermost ejecta. While the sample size is limited, we find similar 1 μ m features in all the peculiar He-shell DDet candidates with NIR spectra obtained to date. SN 2020jgb is also the first peculiar He-shell DDet SN discovered in a star-forming dwarf galaxy, indisputably showing that He-shell DDet SNe occur in both star-forming and passive galaxies, consistent with the normal SN Ia population. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  4. Abstract While it is difficult to observe the first black hole seeds in the early universe, we can study intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) in local dwarf galaxies for clues about their origins. In this paper we present a sample of variability-selected active galactic nuclei (AGN) in dwarf galaxies using optical photometry from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) and forward-modeled mid-IR photometry of time-resolved Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) co-added images. We found that 44 out of 25,714 dwarf galaxies had optically variable AGN candidates and 148 out of 79,879 dwarf galaxies had mid-IR variable AGN candidates, corresponding to active fractions of 0.17% ± 0.03% and 0.19% ± 0.02%, respectively. We found that spectroscopic approaches to AGN identification would have missed 81% of our ZTF IMBH candidates and 69% of our WISE IMBH candidates. Only nine candidates have been detected previously in radio, X-ray, and variability searches for dwarf galaxy AGN. The ZTF and WISE dwarf galaxy AGN with broad Balmer lines have virial masses of 10 5 M ⊙ < M BH < 10 7 M ⊙ , but for the rest of the sample, BH masses predicted from host galaxy mass range between 10 5.2 M ⊙ < M BH < 10 7.25 M ⊙ . We found that only 5 of 152 previously reported variability-selected AGN candidates from the Palomar Transient Factory in common with our parent sample were variable in ZTF. We also determined a nuclear supernova fraction of 0.05% ± 0.01% yr −1 for dwarf galaxies in ZTF. Our ZTF and WISE IMBH candidates show the promise of variability searches for the discovery of otherwise hidden low-mass AGN. 
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  5. Holland, Andrew D. ; Beletic, James (Ed.)
    The Wide-Field Infrared Transient Explorer (WINTER) is a new time-domain instrument which will perform a seeing-limited survey of the near-infrared sky. Deployed on a dedicated 1-meter robotic telescope at Palomar Observatory, WINTER is designed to study transients of particular interest in the near-infrared including kilo-novae from gravitational-wave sources, supernovae, tidal disruption events, and transiting exoplanets around low mass stars with surveys to a depth of J=21 magnitudes. WINTER's custom camera combines six commercial large-format Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs) sensors, observing in Y, J, and a short-H (Hs) band filters (0.9-1.7 microns), and employs a novel tiled optical design to cover a >1 degree squared field of view with 90% fill factor. Each wide-format (1920 x 1080 pixels) InGaAs sensor operates at T = -50°C with a thermoelectric cooler, achieving background-limited photometry without cryogenic cooling. The tiled InGaAs sensors result in a wide field-of-view instrument with significant cost savings when compared to HgCdTe sensors. We present WINTER's novel readout scheme, which includes custom electronics, firmware, and software for low-noise, real-time readout of the InGaAs sensors, including up to a 30x speed up of data reduction using GPUs. This work also outlines the cooling design for warm (T = -50°C) operation of the sensors with a two-stage thermometric cooler, copper heat pipes, and liquid cooling. We conclude with updates on the alignment, integration, and test of the WINTER instrument with a projected first light in Fall 2022. 
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  6. We present photometric and spectroscopic observations of the Type IIn supernova SN 2019zrk (also known as ZTF 20aacbyec). The SN shows a > 100 day precursor, with a slow rise, followed by a rapid rise to M  ≈ −19.2 in the r and g bands. The post-peak light-curve decline is well fit with an exponential decay with a timescale of ∼39 days, but it shows prominent undulations, with an amplitude of ∼1 mag. Both the light curve and spectra are dominated by an interaction with a dense circumstellar medium (CSM), probably from previous mass ejections. The spectra evolve from a scattering-dominated Type IIn spectrum to a spectrum with strong P-Cygni absorptions. The expansion velocity is high, ∼16 000 km s −1 , even in the last spectra. The last spectrum ∼110 days after the main eruption reveals no evidence for advanced nucleosynthesis. From analysis of the spectra and light curves, we estimate the mass-loss rate to be ∼4 × 10 −2   M ⊙ yr −1 for a CSM velocity of 100 km s −1 , and a CSM mass of 1  M ⊙ . We find strong similarities for both the precursor, general light curve, and spectral evolution with SN 2009ip and similar SNe, although SN 2019zrk displays a brighter peak magnitude. Different scenarios for the nature of the 09ip-class of SNe, based on pulsational pair instability eruptions, wave heating, and mergers, are discussed. 
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  7. Abstract

    We analyze pre-explosion near- and mid-infrared (IR) imaging of the site of SN 2023ixf in the nearby spiral galaxy M101 and characterize the candidate progenitor star. The star displays compelling evidence of variability with a possible period of ≈1000 days and an amplitude of Δm≈ 0.6 mag in extensive monitoring with the Spitzer Space Telescope since 2004, likely indicative of radial pulsations. Variability consistent with this period is also seen in the near-IRJandKsbands between 2010 and 2023, up to just 10 days before the explosion. Beyond the periodic variability, we do not find evidence for any IR-bright pre-supernova outbursts in this time period. The IR brightness (MKs=10.7mag) and color (JKs= 1.6 mag) of the star suggest a luminous and dusty red supergiant. Modeling of the phase-averaged spectral energy distribution (SED) yields constraints on the stellar temperature (Teff=35001400+800K) and luminosity (logL/L=5.1±0.2). This places the candidate among the most luminous Type II supernova progenitors with direct imaging constraints, with the caveat that many of these rely only on optical measurements. Comparison with stellar evolution models gives an initial mass ofMinit= 17 ± 4M. We estimate the pre-supernova mass-loss rate of the star between 3 and 19 yr before explosion from the SED modeling atṀ3×105to 3 × 10−4Myr−1for an assumed wind velocity ofvw= 10 km s−1, perhaps pointing to enhanced mass loss in a pulsation-driven wind.

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  8. Abstract Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are thermonuclear explosions of degenerate white dwarf stars destabilized by mass accretion from a companion star 1 , but the nature of their progenitors remains poorly understood. A way to discriminate between progenitor systems is through radio observations; a non-degenerate companion star is expected to lose material through winds 2 or binary interaction 3 before explosion, and the supernova ejecta crashing into this nearby circumstellar material should result in radio synchrotron emission. However, despite extensive efforts, no type Ia supernova (SN Ia) has ever been detected at radio wavelengths, which suggests a clean environment and a companion star that is itself a degenerate white dwarf star 4,5 . Here we report on the study of SN 2020eyj, a SN Ia showing helium-rich circumstellar material, as demonstrated by its spectral features, infrared emission and, for the first time in a SN Ia to our knowledge, a radio counterpart. On the basis of our modelling, we conclude that the circumstellar material probably originates from a single-degenerate binary system in which a white dwarf accretes material from a helium donor star, an often proposed formation channel for SNe Ia (refs.  6,7 ). We describe how comprehensive radio follow-up of SN 2020eyj-like SNe Ia can improve the constraints on their progenitor systems. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 18, 2024
  9. Abstract

    Luminous red novae (LRNe) are transients characterized by low luminosities and expansion velocities, and they are associated with mergers or common-envelope ejections in stellar binaries. Intermediate-luminosity red transients (ILRTs) are an observationally similar class with unknown origins, but they are generally believed to be either electron-capture supernovae in super-asymptotic giant branch stars or outbursts in dusty luminous blue variables (LBVs). In this paper, we present a systematic sample of eight LRNe and eight ILRTs detected as part of the Census of the Local Universe (CLU) experiment on the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). The CLU experiment spectroscopically classifies ZTF transients associated with nearby (<150 Mpc) galaxies, achieving 80% completeness formr< 20 mag. Using the ZTF-CLU sample, we derive the first systematic LRNe volumetric rate of7.83.7+6.5×105Mpc−3yr−1in the luminosity range −16 ≤Mr≤ −11 mag. We find that, in this luminosity range, the LRN rate scales asdN/dLL2.5±0.3—significantly steeper than the previously derived scaling ofL−1.4±0.3for lower-luminosity LRNe (MV≥ −10 mag). The steeper power law for LRNe at high luminosities is consistent with the massive merger rates predicted by binary population synthesis models. We find that the rates of the brightest LRNe (Mr≤ −13 mag) are consistent with a significant fraction of them being progenitors of double compact objects that merge within a Hubble time. For ILRTs, we derive a volumetric rate of2.61.4+1.8×106Mpc−3yr−1forMr≤ −13.5 mag, which scales asdN/dLL2.5±0.5. This rate is ∼1%–5% of the local core-collapse supernova rate and is consistent with theoretical ECSN rate estimates.

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  10. Abstract Tidal disruption events (TDEs) offer a unique way to study dormant black holes. While the number of observed TDEs has grown thanks to the emergence of wide-field surveys in the past few decades, questions regarding the nature of the observed optical, UV, and X-ray emission remain. We present a uniformly selected sample of 30 spectroscopically classified TDEs from the Zwicky Transient Facility Phase I survey operations with follow-up Swift UV and X-ray observations. Through our investigation into correlations between light-curve properties, we recover a shallow positive correlation between the peak bolometric luminosity and decay timescales. We introduce a new spectroscopic class of TDE, TDE-featureless, which are characterized by featureless optical spectra. The new TDE-featureless class shows larger peak bolometric luminosities, peak blackbody temperatures, and peak blackbody radii. We examine the differences between the X-ray bright and X-ray faint populations of TDEs in this sample, finding that X-ray bright TDEs show higher peak blackbody luminosities than the X-ray faint subsample. This sample of optically selected TDEs is the largest sample of TDEs from a single survey yet, and the systematic discovery, classification, and follow-up of this sample allows for robust characterization of TDE properties, an important stepping stone looking forward toward the Rubin era. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 28, 2023