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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. We present SNIascore, a deep-learning based method for spectroscopic classification of thermonuclear supernovae (SNe Ia) based on very low-resolution (R ∼100) data. The goal of SNIascore is fully automated classification of SNe Ia with a very low false-positive rate (FPR) so that human intervention can be greatly reduced in large-scale SN classification efforts, such as that undertaken by the public Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) Bright Transient Survey (BTS). We utilize a recurrent neural network (RNN) architecture with a combination of bidirectional long short-term memory and gated recurrent unit layers. SNIascore achieves a <0.6% FPR while classifying up to 90% ofmore »the low-resolution SN Ia spectra obtained by the BTS. SNIascore simultaneously performs binary classification and predicts the redshifts of secure SNe Ia via regression (with a typical uncertainty of <0.005 in the range from z=0.01 to z=0.12). For the magnitude-limited ZTF BTS survey (≈70% SNe Ia), deploying SNIascore reduces the amount of spectra in need of human classification or confirmation by ≈60%. Furthermore, SNIascore allows SN Ia classifications to be automatically announced in real-time to the public immediately following a finished observation during the night.« less
  3. Using Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) observations, we identify a pair of "sibling" Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), i.e., hosted by the same galaxy at z = 0.0541. They exploded within 200 days from each other at a separation of 0.6″ corresponding to a projected distance of only 0.6 kpc. Performing SALT2 light curve fits to the gri ZTF photometry, we show that for these equally distant "standardizable candles", there is a difference of 2 magnitudes in their rest frame B-band peaks, and the fainter SN has a significantly red SALT2 colour c=0.57± 0.04, while the stretch values x1 of themore »two SNe are similar, suggesting that the fainter SN is attenuated by dust in the interstellar medium of the host galaxy. We use these measurements to infer the SALT2 colour standardization parameter, β = 3.5 ± 0.3, independent of the underlying cosmology and Malmquist bias. Assuming the colour excess is entirely due to dust, the result differs by 2σ from the average Milky-Way total-to-selective extinction ratio, but is in good agreement with the colour-brightness corrections empirically derived from the most recent SN Ia Hubble-Lemaitre diagram fits. Thus we suggest that SN "siblings", which will increasingly be discovered in the coming years, can be used to probe the validity of the colour and lightcurve shape corrections using in SN Ia cosmology while avoiding important systematic effects in their inference from global multi-parameter fits to inhomogeneous data-sets, and also help constrain the role of interstellar dust in SN Ia cosmology.« less
  4. The many unusual properties of the enigmatic AT2018cow suggested that at least some subset of the empirical class of fast blue optical transients (FBOTs) represents a genuinely new astrophysical phenomenon. Unfortunately, the intrinsic rarity and fleeting nature of these events have made it difficult to identify additional examples early enough to acquire the observations necessary to constrain theoretical models. We present here the Zwicky Transient Facility discovery of AT2020xnd (ZTF20acigmel, the "Camel") at z=0.243, the first unambiguous AT2018cow analog to be found and confirmed in real time. AT2018cow and AT2020xnd share all key observational properties: a fast optical rise, sustainedmore »high photospheric temperature, absence of a second peak attributable to ejection of a radioactively-heated stellar envelope, extremely luminous radio, millimetre, and X-ray emission, and a dwarf-galaxy host. This supports the argument that AT2018cow-like events represent a distinct phenomenon from slower-evolving radio-quiet supernovae, likely requiring a different progenitor or a different central engine. The sample properties of the four known members of this class to date disfavour tidal disruption models but are consistent with the alternative model of an accretion powered jet following the direct collapse of a massive star to a black hole. Contextual filtering of alert streams combined with rapid photometric verification using multi-band imaging provides an efficient way to identify future members of this class, even at high redshift.« less
  5. While optical surveys regularly discover slow transients like supernovae on their own, the most common way to discover extragalactic fast transients, fading away in a few nights, is via follow-up observations of gamma-ray burst and gravitational-wave triggers. However, wide-field surveys have the potential to also identify rapidly fading transients independently of such external triggers. The volumetric survey speed of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) makes it sensitive to faint and fast-fading objects as kilonovae, the optical counterparts to binary neutron stars and neutron star-black hole mergers, out to almost 200Mpc. We introduce an open-source software infrastructure, the ZTF REaltime Searchmore »and Triggering, ZTFReST, designed to identify kilonovae and fast optical transients in ZTF data. Using the ZTF alert stream combined with forced photometry, we have implemented automated candidate ranking based on their photometric evolution and fitting to kilonova models. Automated triggering of follow-up systems, such as Las Cumbres Observatory, has also been implemented. In 13 months of science validation, we found several extragalactic fast transients independent of any external trigger (though some counterparts were identified later), including at least one supernova with post-shock cooling emission, two known afterglows with an associated gamma-ray burst, two known afterglows without any known gamma-ray counterpart, and three new fast-declining sources (ZTF20abtxwfx, ZTF20acozryr, and ZTF21aagwbjr) that are likely associated with GRB200817A, GRB201103B, and GRB210204A. However, we have not found any objects which appear to be kilonovae; therefore, we constrain the rate of GW170817-like kilonovae to R<900Gpc−3yr−1. A framework such as ZTFReST could become a prime tool for kilonova and fast transient discovery with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory.« less
  6. We present 42 rapidly evolving (time spent above half-maximum brightness t1/2<12d) extragalactic transients from Phase I of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), of which 22 have spectroscopic classifications. This is one of the largest systematically selected samples of day-timescale transients, and the first with spectroscopic classifications. Most can be classified as core-collapse supernovae (SNe), and we identify several predominant subtypes: (1) subluminous Type IIb or Type Ib SNe; (2) luminous Type Ibn or hybrid IIn/Ibn SNe; and (3) radio-loud, short-duration luminous events similar to AT2018cow. We conclude that rates quoted in the literature for rapidly evolving extragalactic transients are dominatedmore »by the subluminous events (mostly Type IIb SNe). From our spectroscopic classifications and radio, X-ray, and millimeter-band upper limits, we are motivated to consider the AT2018cow-like objects a distinct class, and use ZTF's systematic classification experiments to calculate that their rate does not exceed 0.1% of the local core-collapse SN rate, in agreement with previous work. By contrast, most other events are simply the extreme of a continuum of established SN types extending to ordinary timescales. The light curves of our objects are very similar to those of unclassified events in the literature, illustrating how spectroscopically classified samples of low-redshift objects in shallow surveys like ZTF can be used to photometrically classify larger numbers of events at higher redshift.« less