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  1. Abstract

    Transient low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) are discovered largely by X-ray and gamma-ray all-sky monitors. The X-ray outburst is also accompanied by an optical brightening, which empirically can precede the detection of X-rays. Newly sensitive optical synoptic surveys may offer a complementary pathway for discovery and potential for insight into the initial onset and propagation of the thermal instability that leads to the ionization of the accretion disk. We use the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) alert stream to perform a comprehensive search at optical wavelengths for previously undiscovered outbursting LMXBs. Our pipeline first crossmatches the positions of the alerts to cataloged X-ray sources, and then analyzes the 30 day lightcurve of matched alerts by thresholding on differences with an 8 day exponentially weighted moving average. In addition to a 19 month long live search, we ran our pipeline over 4 yr of ZTF archival data, recovering four known LMXBs. We also independently detected an outburst of MAXI J1957+032 in the live search and found the first outburst of Swift J1943.4+0228, an unclassified X-ray transient, in 10 yr. Using Monte Carlo simulations of the Galactic LMXB population, we estimate that 29% of outbursting LMXBs are detectable by ZTF and that 4.4% of LMXBs would be present in the crossmatched X-ray catalogs, giving an estimated Galactic population of33901930+3980. We estimate that our current pipeline can detect 1.3% of all outbursting LMXBs, including those previously unknown, but that Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time will be able to detect 43% of outbursting LMXBs.

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    Rapid identification of the optical counterparts of neutron star (NS) merger events discovered by gravitational wave detectors may require observing a large error region and sifting through a large number of transients to identify the object of interest. Given the expense of spectroscopic observations, a question arises: How can we utilize photometric observations for candidate prioritization, and what kinds of photometric observations are needed to achieve this goal? NS merger kilonova exhibits low ejecta mass (∼5 × 10−2 M⊙) and a rapidly evolving photospheric radius (with a velocity ∼0.2c). As a consequence, these sources display rapid optical-flux evolution. Indeed, selection based on fast flux variations is commonly used for young supernovae and NS mergers. In this study, we leverage the best currently available flux-limited transient survey – the Zwicky Transient Facility Bright Transient Survey – to extend and quantify this approach. We focus on selecting transients detected in a 3-day cadence survey and observed at a one-day cadence. We explore their distribution in the phase space defined by g–r, $\dot{g}$, and $\dot{r}$. Our analysis demonstrates that for a significant portion of the time during the first week, the kilonova AT 2017gfo stands out in this phase space. It is important to note that this investigation is subject to various biases and challenges; nevertheless, it suggests that certain photometric observations can be leveraged to identify transients with the highest probability of being fast-evolving events. We also find that a large fraction (≈75 per cent) of the transient candidates with $\vert\dot{g}\vert>0.7$ mag d−1, are cataclysmic variables or active galactic nuclei with radio counterparts.

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  3. Abstract

    Based on 14 Miras located in seven globular clusters, we derived the firstgr-band period–luminosity (PL) at maximum light for the large-amplitude Mira variables using the multiyear light-curve data collected from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). Since Miras are red variables, we applied a color-term correction to subsets of ZTF light curves, and found that such corrections do not have a large impact on period determinations. We applied our derived PL relations to the known extragalactic Miras in five local galaxies (Sextans, Leo I, Leo II, NGC 6822 and IC 1613), and determined their Mira-based distances. We demonstrated that our PL relations can be applied to short-period (≲300 days) Miras, including those in the two most distant galaxies (NGC 6822 and IC 1613) in our sample even when only a portion of the light curves around maximum light have detections. We have also shown that the long-period extragalactic Miras do not follow the PL relations extrapolated to longer periods. Hence, our derived PL relations are only applicable to the short-period Miras, which will be discovered in abundance in local galaxies within the era of Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time.

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    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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  5. Abstract

    Using the Zwicky Transient Facility, in 2021 February we identified the first known outburst of the black hole X-ray transient XTE J1859+226 since its discovery in 1999. The outburst was visible at X-ray, UV, and optical wavelengths for less than 20 days, substantially shorter than its full outburst of 320 days in 1999, and the observed peak luminosity was 2 orders of magnitude lower. Its peak bolometric luminosity was only 2 × 1035erg s−1, implying an Eddington fraction of about 3 × 10−4. The source remained in the hard spectral state throughout the outburst. From optical spectroscopy measurements we estimate an outer disk radius of 1011cm. The low observed X-ray luminosity is not sufficient to irradiate the entire disk, but we observe a surprising exponential decline in the X-ray light curve. These observations highlight the potential of optical and infrared synoptic surveys to discover low-luminosity activity from X-ray transients.

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  6. Abstract We present the first gri -band period–luminosity (PL) and period–Wesenheit (PW) relations for 37 Type II Cepheids (TIICs) located in 18 globular clusters based on photometric data from the Zwicky Transient Facility. We also updated BVIJHK -band absolute magnitudes for 58 TIICs in 24 globular clusters using the latest homogeneous distances to the globular clusters. The slopes of g / r / i - and B / V / I -band PL relations are found to be statistically consistent when using the same sample of distance and reddening. We employed the calibration of ri -band PL/PW relations in globular clusters to estimate a distance to M31 based on a sample of ∼270 TIICs from the PAndromeda project. The distance modulus to M31, obtained using calibrated ri -band PW relation, agrees well with the recent determination based on classical Cepheids. However, distance moduli derived using the calibrated r - and i -band PL relations are systematically smaller by ∼0.2 mag, suggesting there are possible additional systematic errors on the PL relations. Finally, we also derive the period–color (PC) relations and for the first time the period–Q-index (PQ) relations, where the Q -index is reddening free, for our sample of TIICs. The PC relations based on ( r − i ) and near-infrared colors and the PQ relations are found to be relatively independent of the pulsation periods. 
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  7. Abstract

    We present the first absolute calibration for the yellow post-asymptotic-giant-branch (PAGB) stars in thegandrband based on time-series observations from the Zwicky Transient Facility. These absolute magnitudes were calibrated using four yellow PAGB stars (one nonvarying star and three Type II Cepheids) located in the globular clusters. We provide two calibrations of thegr-band absolute magnitudes for the yellow PAGB stars, by using an arithmetic mean and a linear regression. We demonstrate that the linear regression provides a better fit to theg-band absolute magnitudes for the yellow PAGB stars. These calibratedgr-band absolute magnitudes have a potential to be used as Population II distance indicators in the era of time-domain synoptic sky surveys.

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  8. 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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  9. Abstract: Detecting gravitationally lensed supernovae is among the biggest challenges in astronomy. It involves a combination of two very rare phenomena: catching the transient signal of a stellar explosion in a distant galaxy and observing it through a nearly perfectly aligned foreground galaxy that deflects light towards the observer. Here we describe how high-cadence optical observations with the Zwicky Transient Facility, with its unparalleled large field of view, led to the detection of a multiply imaged type Ia supernova, SN Zwicky, also known as SN 2022qmx. Magnified nearly 25-fold, the system was found thanks to the standard candle nature of type Ia supernovae. High-spatial-resolution imaging with the Keck telescope resolved four images of the supernova with very small angular separation, corresponding to an Einstein radius of only θ E  = 0.167″ and almost identical arrival times. The small θ E and faintness of the lensing galaxy are very unusual, highlighting the importance of supernovae to fully characterize the properties of galaxy-scale gravitational lenses, including the impact of galaxy substructures. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 12, 2024
  10. 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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