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  1. 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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  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. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    We conduct a systematic tidal disruption event (TDE) demographics analysis using the largest sample of optically selected TDEs. A flux-limited, spectroscopically complete sample of 33 TDEs is constructed using the Zwicky Transient Facility over 3 yr (from 2018 October to 2021 September). We infer the black hole (BH) mass (MBH) with host galaxy scaling relations, showing that the sampleMBHranges from 105.1Mto 108.2M. We developed a survey efficiency corrected maximum volume method to infer the rates. The rest-frameg-band luminosity function can be well described by a broken power law ofϕ(Lg)Lg/Lbk0.3+Lg/Lbk2.61, withLbk= 1043.1erg s−1. In the BH mass regime of 105.3≲ (MBH/M) ≲ 107.3, the TDE mass function followsϕ(MBH)MBH0.25, which favors a flat local BH mass function (dnBH/dlogMBHconstant). We confirm the significant rate suppression at the high-mass end (MBH≳ 107.5M), which is consistent with theoretical predictions considering direct capture of hydrogen-burning stars by the event horizon. At a host galaxy mass ofMgal∼ 1010M, the average optical TDE rate is ≈3.2 × 10−5galaxy−1yr−1. We constrain the optical TDE rate to be [3.7, 7.4, and 1.6] × 10−5galaxy−1yr−1in galaxies with red, green, and blue colors.

     
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  5. 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
  6. Abstract GRB 221009A ( z = 0.151) is one of the closest known long γ -ray bursts (GRBs). Its extreme brightness across all electromagnetic wavelengths provides an unprecedented opportunity to study a member of this still-mysterious class of transients in exquisite detail. We present multiwavelength observations of this extraordinary event, spanning 15 orders of magnitude in photon energy from radio to γ -rays. We find that the data can be partially explained by a forward shock (FS) from a highly collimated relativistic jet interacting with a low-density, wind-like medium. Under this model, the jet’s beaming-corrected kinetic energy ( E K ∼ 4 × 10 50 erg) is typical for the GRB population. The radio and millimeter data provide strong limiting constraints on the FS model, but require the presence of an additional emission component. From equipartition arguments, we find that the radio emission is likely produced by a small amount of mass (≲6 × 10 −7 M ⊙ ) moving relativistically (Γ ≳ 9) with a large kinetic energy (≳10 49 erg). However, the temporal evolution of this component does not follow prescriptions for synchrotron radiation from a single power-law distribution of electrons (e.g., in a reverse shock or two-component jet), or a thermal-electron population, perhaps suggesting that one of the standard assumptions of afterglow theory is violated. GRB 221009A will likely remain detectable with radio telescopes for years to come, providing a valuable opportunity to track the full lifecycle of a powerful relativistic jet. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  7. 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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  8. Abstract

    We present observations of a peculiar hydrogen- and helium-poor stripped-envelope (SE) supernova (SN) 2020wnt, primarily in the optical and near-infrared (near-IR). Its peak absolute bolometric magnitude of −20.9 mag (Lbol, peak= (6.8 ± 0.3) × 1043erg s−1) and a rise time of 69 days are reminiscent of hydrogen-poor superluminous SNe (SLSNe I), luminous transients potentially powered by spinning-down magnetars. Before the main peak, there is a brief peak lasting <10 days post explosion, likely caused by interaction with circumstellar medium (CSM) ejected ∼years before the SN explosion. The optical spectra near peak lack a hot continuum and Oiiabsorptions, which are signs of heating from a central engine; they quantitatively resemble those of radioactivity-powered hydrogen/helium-poor Type Ic SESNe. At ∼1 yr after peak, nebular spectra reveal a blue pseudo-continuum and narrow Oirecombination lines associated with magnetar heating. Radio observations rule out strong CSM interactions as the dominant energy source at +266 days post peak. Near-IR observations at +200–300 days reveal carbon monoxide and dust formation, which causes a dramatic optical light-curve dip. Pair-instability explosion models predict slow light curve and spectral features incompatible with observations. SN 2020wnt is best explained as a magnetar-powered core-collapse explosion of a 28Mpre-SN star. The explosion kinetic energy is significantly larger than the magnetar energy at peak, effectively concealing the magnetar-heated inner ejecta until well after peak. SN 2020wnt falls into a continuum between normal SNe Ic and SLSNe I, and demonstrates that optical spectra at peak alone cannot rule out the presence of a central engine.

     
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  9. Abstract Dirty fireballs are a hypothesized class of relativistic massive-star explosions with an initial Lorentz factor Γ init below the Γ init ∼ 100 required to produce a long-duration gamma-ray burst (LGRB), but which could still produce optical emission resembling LGRB afterglows. Here we present the results of a search for on-axis optical afterglows using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). Our search yielded seven optical transients that resemble on-axis LGRB afterglows in terms of their red colors ( g − r > 0 mag), faint host galaxies ( r > 23 mag), rapid fading ( dr / dt > 1 mag day −1 ), and in some cases X-ray and radio emission. Spectroscopy of the transient emission within a few days of discovery established cosmological distances (redshift z = 0.876 to 2.9) for six of the seven events, tripling the number of afterglows with redshift measurements discovered by optical surveys without a γ -ray trigger. A likely associated LGRB (GRB 200524A, GRB 210204A, GRB 210212B, and GRB 210610B) was identified for four events (ZTF 20abbiixp/AT 2020kym, ZTF 21aagwbjr/AT 2021buv, ZTF 21aakruew/AT 2021cwd, and ZTF 21abfmpwn/AT 2021qbd) post facto, while three (ZTF 20aajnksq/AT 2020blt, ZTF 21aaeyldq/AT 2021any, and ZTF 21aayokph/AT 2021lfa) had no detected LGRB counterpart. The simplest explanation for the three “orphan” events is that they were regular LGRBs missed by high-energy satellites owing to detector sensitivity and duty cycle, although it is possible that they were intrinsically subluminous in γ -rays or viewed slightly off-axis. We rule out a scenario in which dirty fireballs have a similar energy per solid angle to LGRBs and are an order of magnitude more common. In addition, we set the first direct constraint on the ratio of the opening angles of the material producing γ -rays and the material producing early optical afterglow emission, finding that they must be comparable. 
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