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  1. Abstract Jupiter-family comet (JFC) P/2021 HS (PANSTARRS) only exhibits a coma within a few weeks of its perihelion passage at 0.8 au, which is atypical for a comet. Here we present an investigation into the underlying cause using serendipitous survey detections and targeted observations. We find that the detection of the activity is caused by an extremely faint coma being enhanced by the forward scattering effect owing to the comet reaching a phase angle of ∼140°. The coma morphology is consistent with sustained, sublimation-driven activity produced by a small active area, ∼700 m 2 , one of the smallest values ever measured on a comet. The phase function of the nucleus shows a phase coefficient of 0.035 ± 0.002 mag deg −1 , implying an absolute magnitude of H = 18.31 ± 0.04 and a phase slope of G = − 0.13, with color consistent with typical JFC nuclei. Thermal observations suggest a nucleus diameter of 0.6–1.1 km, implying an optical albedo of 0.04–0.23, which is higher than typical cometary nuclei. An unsuccessful search for dust trail and meteor activity confirms minimal dust deposit along the orbit, totaling ≲10 8 kg. As P/2021 HS is dynamically unstable, similar to typicalmore »JFCs, we speculate that it has an origin in the trans-Neptunian region and that its extreme depletion of volatiles is caused by a large number of previous passages to the inner solar system. The dramatic discovery of the cometary nature of P/2021 HS highlights the challenges of detecting comets with extremely low activity levels. Observations at high phase angle, where forward scattering is pronounced, will help identify such comets.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  2. Abstract Magnetic cataclysmic variables (CVs) are luminous Galactic X-ray sources, which have been difficult to find in purely optical surveys due to their lack of outburst behavior. The eROSITA telescope on board the Spektr-RG mission is conducting an all-sky X-ray survey and recently released the public eROSITA Final Equatorial Depth Survey (eFEDS) catalog. We crossmatched the eFEDS catalog with photometry from the Zwicky Transient Facility and discovered two new magnetic CVs. We obtained high-cadence optical photometry and phase-resolved spectroscopy for each magnetic CV candidate and found them both to be polars. Among the newly discovered magnetic CVs is eFEDS J085037.2+044359/ZTFJ0850+0443, an eclipsing polar with orbital period P orb = 1.72 hr and WD mass M WD = 0.81 ± 0.08 M ⊙ . We suggest that eFEDS J085037.2+044359/ZTFJ0850+0443 is a low magnetic field strength polar, with B WD ≲ 10 MG. We also discovered a non-eclipsing polar, eFEDS J092614.1+010558/ZTFJ0926+0105, with orbital period P orb = 1.47 hr and magnetic field strength B WD = 36–42 MG.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    We present the firstgri-band period–luminosity (PL) and period–Wesenheit (PW) relations for the fundamental mode anomalous Cepheids. These PL and PW relations were derived from a combined sample of five anomalous Cepheids in globular cluster M92 and the Large Magellanic Cloud, both of which have distance accurate to ∼1% available from literature. Ourg-band PL relation is similar to theB-band PL relation as reported in previous study. We applied our PL and PW relations to anomalous Cepheids discovered in dwarf galaxy Crater II, and found a larger but consistent distance modulus than the recent measurements based on RR Lyrae. Our calibrations ofgri-band PL and PW relations, even though less precise due to small number of anomalous Cepheids, will be useful for distance measurements to dwarf galaxies.

  4. 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 featuremore »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.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  5. Abstract

    We report the discovery of ZTF J0127+5258, a compact mass-transferring binary with an orbital period of 13.7 minutes. The system contains a white dwarf accretor, which likely originated as a post–common envelope carbon–oxygen (CO) white dwarf, and a warm donor (Teff,donor= 16,400 ± 1000 K). The donor probably formed during a common envelope phase between the CO white dwarf and an evolving giant that left behind a helium star or white dwarf in a close orbit with the CO white dwarf. We measure gravitational wave–driven orbital inspiral with ∼51σsignificance, which yields a joint constraint on the component masses and mass transfer rate. While the accretion disk in the system is dominated by ionized helium emission, the donor exhibits a mixture of hydrogen and helium absorption lines. Phase-resolved spectroscopy yields a donor radial velocity semiamplitude of 771 ± 27 km s−1, and high-speed photometry reveals that the system is eclipsing. We detect a Chandra X-ray counterpart withLX∼ 3 × 1031erg s−1. Depending on the mass transfer rate, the system will likely either evolve into a stably mass-transferring helium cataclysmic variable, merge to become an R CrB star, or explode as a Type Ia supernova in the next million years. Wemore »predict that the Laser Space Interferometer Antenna (LISA) will detect the source with a signal-to-noise ratio of 24 ± 6 after 4 yr of observations. The system is the first LISA-loud mass-transferring binary with an intrinsically luminous donor, a class of sources that provide the opportunity to leverage the synergy between optical and infrared time domain surveys, X-ray facilities, and gravitational-wave observatories to probe general relativity, accretion physics, and binary evolution.

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  6. 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 radiomore »follow-up of SN 2020eyj-like SNe Ia can improve the constraints on their progenitor systems.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 18, 2024
  7. 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 ⊙ < Mmore »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.« less
  8. Abstract

    The accretion disks of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are promising locations for the merger of compact objects detected by gravitational wave (GW) observatories. Embedded within a baryon-rich, high-density environment, mergers within AGNs are the only GW channel where an electromagnetic (EM) counterpart must occur (whether detectable or not). Considering AGNs with unusual flaring activity observed by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), we describe a search for candidate EM counterparts to binary black hole (BBH) mergers detected by LIGO/Virgo in O3. After removing probable false positives, we find nine candidate counterparts to BBH mergers during O3 (seven in O3a, two in O3b) with ap-value of 0.0019. Based on ZTF sky coverage, AGN geometry, and merger geometry, we expect ≈3(NBBH/83)(fAGN/0.5) potentially detectable EM counterparts from O3, whereNBBHis the total number of observed BBH mergers andfAGNis the fraction originating in AGNs. Further modeling of breakout and flaring phenomena in AGN disks is required to reduce our false-positive rate. Two of the events are also associated with mergers with total masses >100M, which is the expected rate for O3 if hierarchical (large-mass) mergers occur in the AGN channel. Candidate EM counterparts in future GW observing runs can be better constrained by coverage ofmore »the Southern sky as well as spectral monitoring of unusual AGN flaring events in LIGO/Virgo alert volumes. A future set of reliable AGN EM counterparts to BBH mergers will yield an independent means of measuring cosmic expansion (H0) as a function of redshift.

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  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) aremore »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 forwardmore »toward the Rubin era.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 28, 2023