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  1. Abstract

    “Quasiperiodic eruptions” (QPE) are recurrent nuclear transients with periods of several hours to almost a day, which thus far have been detected exclusively in the X-ray band. We have shown that many of the key properties of QPE flares (period, luminosity, duration, emission temperature, alternating long-short recurrence time behavior, and source rates) are naturally reproduced by a scenario involving twice-per-orbit collisions between a solar-type star on a mildly eccentric orbit, likely brought into the nucleus as an extreme mass-ratio inspiral (EMRI), and the gaseous accretion disk of a supermassive black hole (SMBH). The flare is generated by the hot shocked debris expanding outwards from either side of the disk midplane, akin to dual miniature supernovae. Here, we consider the conditions necessary for disk–star collisions to generate lower-temperature flares that peak in the ultraviolet (UV) instead of the X-ray band. We identify a region of parameter space at low SMBH massM∼ 105.5Mand QPE periodsP≳ 10 hr for which the predicted flares are sufficiently luminousLUV∼ 1041erg s−1to outshine the quiescent disk emission at these wavelengths. The prospects to discover such “UV QPEs” with future satellite missions such as ULTRASAT and Ultraviolet Explorer depend on the prevalence of very low-mass SMBHs and the occurrence rate of stellar EMRIs onto them. For gaseous disks produced by the tidal disruption of stars, we predict that X-ray QPEs will eventually shut off, only to later reappear as UV QPEs as the accretion rate continues to drop.

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  2. Abstract

    Hypernebulae are inflated by accretion-powered winds accompanying hyper-Eddington mass transfer from an evolved post-main-sequence star onto a black hole or neutron star companion. The ions accelerated at the termination shock—where the collimated fast disk winds and/or jet collide with the slower, wide-angled wind-fed shell—can generate high-energy neutrinos via hadronic proton–proton reactions, and photohadronic (pγ) interactions with the disk thermal and Comptonized nonthermal background photons. It has been suggested that some fast radio bursts (FRBs) may be powered by such short-lived jetted hyper-accreting engines. Although neutrino emission associated with the millisecond duration bursts themselves is challenging to detect, the persistent radio counterparts of some FRB sources—if associated with hypernebulae—could contribute to the high-energy neutrino diffuse background flux. If the hypernebula birth rate follows that of stellar-merger transients and common envelope events, we find that their volume-integrated neutrino emission—depending on the population-averaged mass-transfer rates—could explain up to ∼25% of the high-energy diffuse neutrino flux observed by the IceCube Observatory and the Baikal Gigaton Volume Detector Telescope. The time-averaged neutrino spectrum from hypernebula—depending on the population parameters—can also reproduce the observed diffuse neutrino spectrum. The neutrino emission could in some cases furthermore extend to >100 PeV, detectable by future ultra-high-energy neutrino observatories. The large optical depth through the nebula to Breit–Wheeler (γγ) interaction attenuates the escape of GeV–PeV gamma rays coproduced with the neutrinos, rendering these gamma-ray-faint neutrino sources, consistent with the Fermi observations of the isotropic gamma-ray background.

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  3. Abstract

    Only a tiny fraction ∼1% of stellar tidal disruption events (TDEs) generate powerful relativistic jets evidenced by luminous hard X-ray and radio emissions. We propose that a key property responsible for both this surprisingly low rate and a variety of other observations is the typically large misalignmentψbetween the orbital plane of the star and the spin axis of the supermassive black hole (SMBH). Such misaligned disk/jet systems undergo Lense–Thirring precession together about the SMBH spin axis. We find that TDE disks precess sufficiently rapidly that winds from the accretion disk will encase the system on large scales in a quasi-spherical outflow. We derive the critical jet efficiencyη>ηcritfor both aligned and misaligned precessing jets to successfully escape from the disk wind ejecta. Asηcritis higher for precessing jets, less powerful jets only escape after alignment with the SMBH spin. Alignment can occur through magneto-spin or hydrodynamic mechanisms, which we estimate occur on typical timescales of weeks and years, respectively. The dominant mechanism depends onηand the orbital penetration factorβ. Hence, depending only on the intrinsic parameters of the event {ψ,η,β}, we propose that each TDE jet can either escape prior to alignment, thus exhibiting an erratic X-ray light curve and two-component radio afterglow (e.g., Swift J1644+57), or escape after alignment. Relatively rapid magneto-spin alignments produce relativistic jets exhibiting X-ray power-law decay and bright afterglows (e.g., AT2022cmc), while long hydrodynamic alignments give rise to late jet escape and delayed radio flares (e.g., AT2018hyz).

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  4. Abstract

    Roughly half of the quasiperiodic eruption (QPE) sources in galactic nuclei exhibit a remarkably regular alternating “long-short” pattern of recurrence times between consecutive flares. We show that a main-sequence star (brought into the nucleus as an extreme mass-ratio inspiral; EMRI) that passes twice per orbit through the accretion disk of the supermassive black hole (SMBH) on a mildly eccentric inclined orbit, each time shocking and ejecting optically thick gas clouds above and below the midplane, naturally reproduces observed properties of QPE flares. Inefficient photon production in the ejecta renders the QPE emission much harder than the blackbody temperature, enabling the flares to stick out from the softer quiescent disk spectrum. Destruction of the star via mass ablation limits the QPE lifetime to decades, precluding a long-lived AGN as the gaseous disk. By contrast, a tidal disruption event (TDE) naturally provides a transient gaseous disk on the requisite radial scale, with a rate exceeding the EMRI inward migration rate, suggesting that many TDEs should host a QPE. This picture is consistent with the X-ray TDE observed several years prior to the QPE appearance from GSN 069. Remarkably, a second TDE-like flare was observed from this event, starting immediately after detectable QPE activity ceased; this event could plausibly result from the (partial or complete) destruction of the QPE-generating star triggered by runaway mass loss, though other explanations cannot be excluded. Our model can also be applied to black hole–disk collisions, such as those invoked in the context of the candidate SMBH binary OJ 287.

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  5. Abstract

    If the envelope of a massive star is not entirely removed during common envelope (CE) interaction with an orbiting compact (e.g., black hole (BH) or neutron star (NS)) companion, the residual bound material eventually cools, forming a centrifugally supported disk around the binary containing the stripped He core. We present a time-dependent height-integrated model for the long-term evolution of post-CE circumbinary disks (CBDs), accounting for mass and angular momentum exchange with the binary, irradiation heating by the He core, and photoevaporation wind mass loss. A large fraction of the CBD’s mass is accreted prior to its outwards viscous spreading and wind dispersal on a timescale of ∼104–105yr, driving significant orbital migration, even for disks containing ∼10% of the original envelope mass. Insofar that the CBD lifetime is comparable to the thermal (and, potentially, nuclear) timescale of the He core, over which a second mass-transfer episode onto the companion can occur, the presence of the CBD could impact the stability of this key phase. Disruption of the core by the BH/NS would result in a jetted energetic explosion into the dense gaseous CBD (≲1015cm) and its wind (≳1016cm), consistent with the environments of luminous fast blue optical transients like AT2018cow. Evolved He cores that undergo core collapse still embedded in their CBD could generate Type Ibn/Icn supernovae. Thousands of dusty wind-shrouded massive-star CBDs may be detectable as extragalactic luminous infrared sources with the Roman Space Telescope; synchrotron radio nebulae powered by the CBD-fed BH/NS may accompany these systems.

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  6. Abstract

    Formed in the aftermath of a core-collapse supernova or neutron star merger, a hot proto–neutron star (PNS) launches an outflow driven by neutrino heating lasting for up to tens of seconds. Though such winds are considered potential sites for the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements via the rapid neutron capture process (r-process), previous work has shown that unmagnetized PNS winds fail to achieve the necessary combination of high entropy and/or short dynamical timescale in the seed nucleus formation region. We present three-dimensional general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamical simulations of PNS winds which include the effects of a dynamically strong (B≳ 1015G) dipole magnetic field. After initializing the magnetic field, the wind quickly develops a helmet-streamer configuration, characterized by outflows along open polar magnetic field lines and a “closed” zone of trapped plasma at lower latitudes. Neutrino heating within the closed zone causes the thermal pressure of the trapped material to rise in time compared to the polar outflow regions, ultimately leading to the expulsion of this matter from the closed zone on a timescale of ∼60 ms, consistent with the predictions of Thompson. The high entropies of these transient ejecta are still growing at the end of our simulations and are sufficient to enable a successful second-peakr-process in at least a modest ≳1% of the equatorial wind ejecta.

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  7. Abstract

    Identifying the sites of r-process nucleosynthesis, a primary mechanism of heavy element production, is a key goal of astrophysics. The discovery of the brightest gamma-ray burst (GRB) to date, GRB 221009A, presented an opportunity to spectroscopically test the idea that r-process elements are produced following the collapse of rapidly rotating massive stars. Here we present James Webb Space Telescope observations of GRB 221009A obtained +168 and +170 rest-frame days after the gamma-ray trigger, and demonstrate that they are well described by a SN 1998bw-like supernova (SN) and power-law afterglow, with no evidence for a component from r-process emission. The SN, with a nickel mass of approximately 0.09 M, is only slightly fainter than the brightness of SN 1998bw at this phase, which indicates that the SN is not an unusual GRB-SN. This demonstrates that the GRB and SN mechanisms are decoupled and that highly energetic GRBs are not likely to produce significant quantities of r-process material, which leaves open the question of whether explosions of massive stars are key sources of r-process elements. Moreover, the host galaxy of GRB 221009A has a very low metallicity of approximately 0.12 Zand strong H2emission at the explosion site, which is consistent with recent star formation, hinting that environmental factors are responsible for its extreme energetics.

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    AT 2022cmc is a luminous optical transient (νLν ≳ 1045 erg s−1) accompanied by decaying non-thermal X-rays (peak duration tX ≲ days and isotropic energy EX,iso ≳ 1053 erg) and a long-lived radio/mm synchrotron afterglow, which has been interpreted as a jetted tidal disruption event (TDE). Both an equipartition analysis and a detailed afterglow model reveal the radio/mm emitting plasma to be expanding mildly relativistically (Lorentz factor $\Gamma \gtrsim \, \mathrm{ few}$ ) with an opening angle θj ≃ 0.1 and roughly fixed energy Ej,iso ≳ few × 1053 erg into an external medium of density profile n ∝ R−k with k ≃ 1.5–2, broadly similar to that of the first jetted TDE candidate Swift J1644+57 and consistent with Bondi accretion at a rate of ∼$10^{-3}\,\dot{M}_{\rm Edd}$ on to a 106 M⊙ black hole before the outburst. The rapidly decaying optical emission over the first days is consistent with fast-cooling synchrotron radiation from the same forward shock as the radio/mm emission, while the bluer slowly decaying phase to follow likely represents a separate thermal emission component. Emission from the reverse shock may have peaked during the first days, but its non-detection in the optical band places an upper bound Γj ≲ 100 on the Lorentz factor of the unshocked jet. Although a TDE origin for AT 2022cmc is indeed supported by some observations, the vast difference between the short-lived jet activity phase tX ≲ days and the months-long thermal optical emission also challenges this scenario. A stellar core-collapse event giving birth to a magnetar or black hole engine of peak duration ∼1 d offers an alternative model also consistent with the circumburst environment, if interpreted as a massive star wind.

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  9. Abstract

    Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have historically been divided into two classes. Short-duration GRBs are associated with binary neutron star mergers (NSMs), while long-duration bursts are connected to a subset of core-collapse supernovae (SNe). GRB 211211A recently made headlines as the first long-duration burst purportedly generated by an NSM. The evidence for an NSM origin was excess optical and near-infrared emission consistent with the kilonova observed after the gravitational-wave-detected NSM GW170817. Kilonovae derive their unique electromagnetic signatures from the properties of the heavy elements synthesized by rapid neutron capture (ther-process) following the merger. Recent simulations suggest that the “collapsar” SNe that trigger long GRBs may also producer-process elements. While observations of GRB 211211A and its afterglow rule out an SN typical of those that follow long GRBs, an unusual collapsar could explain both the duration of GRB 211211A and ther-process-powered excess in its afterglow. We use semianalytic radiation transport modeling to evaluate low-mass collapsars as the progenitors of GRB 211211A–like events. We compare a suite of collapsar models to the afterglow-subtracted emission that followed GRB 211211A, and find the best agreement for models with high kinetic energies and an unexpected pattern of56Ni enrichment. We discuss how core-collapse explosions could produce such ejecta, and how distinct our predictions are from those generated by more straightforward kilonova models. We also show that radio observations can distinguish between kilonovae and the more massive collapsar ejecta we consider here.

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  10. Abstract

    Luminous fast blue optical transients (LFBOTs) such as AT2018cow form a rare class of engine-powered explosions of uncertain origin. A hallmark feature of these events is radio/millimeter synchrotron emission powered by the interaction of fast ≳0.1cejecta and dense circumstellar material (CSM) extending to large radii ≳1016cm surrounding the progenitor. Assuming this CSM to be an outflow from the progenitor, we show that dust grains up to ∼1μm in size can form in the outflow in the years before the explosion. This dusty CSM would attenuate the transient’s ultraviolet emission prior to peak light, before being destroyed by the rising luminosity, reddening the premaximum colors (consistent with the premaximum red-to-blue color evolution of the LFBOT candidate MUSSES2020J). Reradiation by the dust before being destroyed generates a near-infrared (NIR) “echo” of luminosity ∼1041–1042erg s−1lasting weeks, which is detectable over the transient’s rapidly fading blue continuum. We show that this dust echo is compatible with the previously unexplained NIR excess observed in AT2018cow. The gradual decay of the early NIR light curve can result from CSM, which is concentrated in a wide-angle equatorial outflow or torus, consistent with the highly aspherical geometry of AT2018cow’s ejecta. Premaximum optical/UV and NIR follow-up of LFBOTs provide a new probe of their CSM environments and place additional constraints on their progenitors.

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