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  1. Abstract

    Astrometry from the Gaia mission was recently used to discover the two nearest known stellar-mass black holes (BHs), Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2. These objects are among the first stellar-mass BHs not discovered via X-rays or gravitational waves. Both systems contain ∼1Mstars in wide orbits (a≈ 1.4 au, 4.96 au) around ∼9MBHs, with both stars (solar-type main sequence star, red giant) well within their Roche lobes in Gaia BH1 and BH2, respectively. However, the BHs are still expected to accrete stellar winds, leading to potentially detectable X-ray or radio emission. Here, we report observations of both systems with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Very Large Array (for Gaia BH1) and MeerKAT (for Gaia BH2). We did not detect either system, leading to X-ray upper limits ofLX< 9.4 × 1028andLX< 4.0 × 1029erg s−1and radio upper limits ofLr< 1.6 × 1025andLr< 1.0 × 1026erg s−1for Gaia BH1 and BH2, respectively. For Gaia BH2, the non-detection implies that the accretion rate near the horizon is much lower than the Bondi rate, consistent with recent models for hot accretion flows. We discuss implications of these non-detections for broader BH searches, concluding that it is unlikely that isolated BHs will be detected via interstellar medium accretion in the near future. We also calculate evolutionary models for the binaries’ future evolution using Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics, and find that Gaia BH1 will be visible as a symbiotic BH X-ray binary for 5–50 Myr. Since no symbiotic BH X-ray binaries are known, this implies either that fewer than ∼104Gaia BH1-like binaries exist in the Milky Way, or that they are common but have evaded detection.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  2. ABSTRACT

    Cataclysmic variables (CVs) that have evolved past the period minimum during their lifetimes are predicted to be systems with a brown dwarf donor. While population synthesis models predict that around 40–70 per cent of the Galactic CVs are post-period minimum systems referred to as ‘period bouncers’, only a few dozen confirmed systems are known. We report the study and characterization of a new eclipsing CV, SRGeJ041130.3+685350 (SRGeJ0411), discovered from a joint SRG/eROSITA and ZTF programme. The optical spectrum of SRGeJ0411 shows prominent hydrogen and helium emission lines, typical for CVs. We obtained optical high-speed photometry to confirm the eclipse of SRGeJ0411 and determine the orbital period to be Porb ≈ 97.530 min. The spectral energy distribution suggests that the donor has an effective temperature of ≲ 1800 K. We constrain the donor mass with the period–density relationship for Roche lobe-filling stars and find that Mdonor ≲ 0.04 M⊙. The binary parameters are consistent with evolutionary models for post-period minimum CVs, suggesting that SRGeJ0411 is a new period bouncer. The optical emission lines of SRGeJ0411 are single-peaked despite the system being eclipsing, which is typically only seen due to stream-fed accretion in polars. X-ray spectroscopy hints that the white dwarf in SRGeJ0411 could be magnetic, but verifying the magnetic nature of SRGeJ0411 requires further investigation. The lack of optical outbursts has made SRGeJ0411 elusive in previous surveys, and joint X-ray and optical surveys highlight the potential for discovering similar systems in the near future.

     
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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 27, 2024
  4. Abstract

    Multipeaked supernovae with precursors, dramatic light-curve rebrightenings, and spectral transformation are rare, but are being discovered in increasing numbers by modern night-sky transient surveys like the Zwicky Transient Facility. Here, we present the observations and analysis of SN 2023aew, which showed a dramatic increase in brightness following an initial luminous (−17.4 mag) and long (∼100 days) unusual first peak (possibly precursor). SN 2023aew was classified as a Type IIb supernova during the first peak but changed its type to resemble a stripped-envelope supernova (SESN) after the marked rebrightening. We present comparisons of SN 2023aew’s spectral evolution with SESN subtypes and argue that it is similar to SNe Ibc during its main peak. P-Cygni Balmer lines are present during the first peak, but vanish during the second peak’s photospheric phase, before Hαresurfaces again during the nebular phase. The nebular lines ([Oi], [Caii], Mgi], Hα) exhibit a double-peaked structure that hints toward a clumpy or nonspherical ejecta. We analyze the second peak in the light curve of SN 2023aew and find it to be broader than that of normal SESNe as well as requiring a very high56Ni mass to power the peak luminosity. We discuss the possible origins of SN 2023aew including an eruption scenario where a part of the envelope is ejected during the first peak and also powers the second peak of the light curve through interaction of the SN with the circumstellar medium.

     
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  5. ABSTRACT

    We constrain the orbital period (Porb) distribution of low-mass detached main-sequence eclipsing binaries (EBs) with light-curves from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which provides a well-understood selection function and sensitivity to faint stars. At short periods (Porb ≲ 2 d), binaries are predicted to evolve significantly due to magnetic braking (MB), which shrinks orbits and ultimately brings detached binaries into contact. The period distribution is thus a sensitive probe of MB. We find that the intrinsic period distribution of low-mass (0.1 ≲ M1/M⊙ < 0.9) binaries is basically flat (${\rm d}N/{\rm d}P_{\rm orb} \propto P_{\rm orb}^0$) from Porb = 10 d down to the contact limit. This is strongly inconsistent with predictions of classical MB models based on the Skumanich relation, which are widely used in binary evolution calculations and predict ${\rm d}N/{\rm d}P_{\rm orb} \propto P_{\rm orb}^{7/3}$ at short periods. The observed distributions are best reproduced by models in which the magnetic field saturates at short periods with a MB torque that scales roughly as $\dot{J}\propto P_{\rm orb}^{-1}$, as opposed to $\dot{J} \propto P_{\rm orb}^{-3}$ in the standard Skumanich law. We also find no significant difference between the period distributions of binaries containing fully and partially convective stars. Our results confirm that a saturated MB law, which was previously found to describe the spin-down of rapidly rotating isolated M dwarfs, also operates in tidally locked binaries. We advocate using saturated MB models in binary evolution calculations. Our work supports previous suggestions that MB in cataclysmic variables (CVs) is much weaker than assumed in the standard evolutionary model, unless mass transfer leads to significant additional angular momentum loss in CVs.

     
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  6. 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. 
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  7. ABSTRACT

    We report discovery of a bright, nearby ($G = 13.8;\, \, d = 480\, \rm pc$) Sun-like star orbiting a dark object. We identified the system as a black hole candidate via its astrometric orbital solution from the Gaia mission. Radial velocities validated and refined the Gaia solution, and spectroscopy ruled out significant light contributions from another star. Joint modelling of radial velocities and astrometry constrains the companion mass of $M_2 = 9.62\pm 0.18\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$. The spectroscopic orbit alone sets a minimum companion mass of $M_2\gt 5\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$; if the companion were a $5\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$ star, it would be 500 times more luminous than the entire system. These constraints are insensitive to the mass of the luminous star, which appears as a slowly rotating G dwarf ($T_{\rm eff}=5850\, \rm K$, log g = 4.5, $M=0.93\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$), with near-solar metallicity ($\rm [Fe/H] = -0.2$) and an unremarkable abundance pattern. We find no plausible astrophysical scenario that can explain the orbit and does not involve a black hole. The orbital period, Porb = 185.6 d, is longer than that of any known stellar-mass black hole binary. The system’s modest eccentricity (e = 0.45), high metallicity, and thin-disc Galactic orbit suggest that it was born in the Milky Way disc with at most a weak natal kick. How the system formed is uncertain. Common envelope evolution can only produce the system’s wide orbit under extreme and likely unphysical assumptions. Formation models involving triples or dynamical assembly in an open cluster may be more promising. This is the nearest known black hole by a factor of 3, and its discovery suggests the existence of a sizable population of dormant black holes in binaries. Future Gaia releases will likely facilitate the discovery of dozens more.

     
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