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    Active galactic nuclei (AGNs) make up about 35 per cent of the more than 250 sources detected in very high-energy (VHE) gamma rays to date with the imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. Apart from four nearby radio galaxies and two AGNs of unknown type, all known VHE AGNs are blazars. Knowledge of the cosmological redshift of gamma-ray blazars is key to enabling the study of their intrinsic emission properties, as the interaction between gamma rays and the extragalactic background light (EBL) results in a spectral softening. Therefore, the redshift determination exercise is crucial to indirectly placing tight constraints on the EBL density, and to studying blazar population evolution across cosmic time. Due to the powerful relativistic jets in blazars, most of their host galaxies’ spectral features are outshined, and dedicated high signal-to-noise (S/N) spectroscopic observations are required. Deep medium- to high-resolution spectroscopy of 33 gamma-ray blazar optical counterparts was performed with the European Southern Observatory, New Technology Telescope, Keck II telescope, Shane 3-metre telescope, and the Southern African Large Telescope. From the sample, spectra from 25 objects display spectral features or are featureless and have high S/N. The other eight objects have low-quality featureless spectra. We systematically searched for absorption and emission features and estimated, when possible, the fractional host galaxy flux in the measured total flux. Our measurements yielded 14 firm spectroscopic redshifts, ranging from 0.0838 to 0.8125, one tentative redshift, and two lower limits: one at $z > 0.382$ and the other at z > 0.629.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Context. Blazars are the most numerous class of high-energy (HE; E ∼ 50 MeV−100 GeV) and very high-energy (VHE; E ∼ 100 GeV−10 TeV) gamma-ray emitters. Currently, a measured spectroscopic redshift is available for only about 50% of gamma-ray BL Lacertae objects (BL Lacs), mainly due to the difficulty in measuring reliable redshifts from their nearly featureless continuum-dominated optical spectra. The knowledge of the redshift is fundamental for understanding the emission from blazars, for population studies and also for indirect studies of the extragalactic background light and searches for Lorentz invariance violation and axion-like particles using blazars. Aims. This paper is the first in a series of papers that aim to measure the redshift of a sample of blazars likely to be detected with the upcoming Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), a ground-based gamma-ray observatory. Methods. Monte Carlo simulations were performed to select those hard spectrum gamma-ray blazars detected with the Fermi -LAT telescope still lacking redshift measurements, but likely to be detected by CTA in 30 hours of observing time or less. Optical observing campaigns involving deep imaging and spectroscopic observations were organised to efficiently constrain their redshifts. We performed deep medium- to high-resolution spectroscopy of 19 blazar optical counterparts with the Keck II, SALT, and ESO NTT telescopes. We searched systematically for spectral features and, when possible, we estimated the contribution of the host galaxy to the total flux. Results. We measured eleven firm spectroscopic redshifts with values ranging from 0.1116 to 0.482, one tentative redshift, three redshift lower limits including one at z ≥ 0.449 and another at z ≥ 0.868. Four BL Lacs show featureless spectra. 
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    We report multiwavelength observations of the gravitationally lensed blazar QSO B0218+357 in 2016–2020. Optical, X-ray, and GeV flares were detected. The contemporaneous MAGIC observations do not show significant very high energy (VHE; ≳100 GeV) gamma-ray emission. The lack of enhancement in radio emission measured by The Owens Valley Radio Observatory indicates the multizone nature of the emission from this object. We constrain the VHE duty cycle of the source to be <16 2014-like flares per year (95 per cent confidence). For the first time for this source, a broad-band low-state spectral energy distribution is constructed with a deep exposure up to the VHE range. A flux upper limit on the low-state VHE gamma-ray emission of an order of magnitude below that of the 2014 flare is determined. The X-ray data are used to fit the column density of (8.10 ± 0.93stat) × 1021 cm−2 of the dust in the lensing galaxy. VLBI observations show a clear radio core and jet components in both lensed images, yet no significant movement of the components is seen. The radio measurements are used to model the source-lens-observer geometry and determine the magnifications and time delays for both components. The quiescent emission is modelled with the high-energy bump explained as a combination of synchrotron-self-Compton and external Compton emission from a region located outside of the broad-line region. The bulk of the low-energy emission is explained as originating from a tens-of-parsecs scale jet.

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