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  1. Abstract We present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging of the site of SN 2015bh in the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 2770 taken between 2017 and 2019, nearly four years after the peak of the explosion. In 2017–2018, the transient fades steadily in optical filters before declining more slowly to F814W = −7.1 mag in 2019, ≈4 mag below the level of its eruptive luminous blue variable (LBV) progenitor observed with HST in 2008–2009. The source fades at a constant color of F555W − F814W = 0.4 mag until 2018, similar to SN 2009ip and consistent with a spectrum dominated by interaction of the ejecta with circumstellar material (CSM). A deep optical spectrum obtained in 2021 lacks signatures of ongoing interaction ( L H α ≲ 10 38 erg s −1 for broadened emission ≲2000 km s −1 ), but indicates the presence of a nearby H ii region (≲300 pc). The color evolution of the fading source makes it unlikely that emission from a scattered-light echo or binary OB companion of the progenitor contributes significantly to the flattening of the late-time light curve. The remaining emission in 2019 may plausibly be attributed an evolved/inflated companion or an unresolved (≲3 pc),more »young stellar cluster. Importantly, the color evolution of SN 2015bh rules out scenarios in which the surviving progenitor is obscured by nascent dust and does not clearly indicate a transition to a hotter, optically faint state. The simplest explanation is that the massive progenitor did not survive. SN 2015bh likely represents a remarkable example of the terminal explosion of a massive star preceded by decades of end-stage eruptive variability.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  2. Abstract We present the discovery of an exceptional dimming event in a cool supergiant star in the Local Volume spiral M51. The star, dubbed M51-DS1, was found as part of a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) search for failed supernovae (SNe). The supergiant, which is plausibly associated with a very young (≲6 Myr) stellar population, showed clear variability (amplitude Δ F 814 W ≈ 0.7 mag) in numerous HST images obtained between 1995 and 2016, before suddenly dimming by >2 mag in F 814 W sometime between late 2017 and mid-2019. In follow-up data from 2021, the star rebrightened, ruling out a failed supernova. Prior to its near-disappearance, the star was luminous and red ( M F 814 W ≲ − 7.6 mag, F 606 W − F 814 W = 1.9–2.2 mag). Modeling of the pre-dimming spectral energy distribution of the star favors a highly reddened, very luminous ( log [ L / L ⊙ ] = 5.4 –5.7) star with T eff ≈ 3700–4700 K, indicative of a cool yellow or post-red supergiant (RSG) with an initial mass of ≈26–40 M ⊙ . However, the local interstellar extinction and circumstellar extinction are uncertain, and could be lower: the near-IRmore »colors are consistent with an RSG, which would be cooler ( T eff ≲ 3700 K) and slightly less luminous ( log [ L / L ⊙ ] = 5.2 –5.3), giving an inferred initial mass of ≈19–22 M ⊙ . In either case, the dimming may be explained by a rare episode of enhanced mass loss that temporarily obscures the star, potentially a more extreme counterpart to the 2019–2020 “Great Dimming” of Betelgeuse. Given the emerging evidence that massive evolved stars commonly exhibit variability that can mimic a disappearing star, our work highlights a substantial challenge in identifying true failed SNe.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. Abstract The dense central regions of tidally disrupted galaxies can survive as ultracompact dwarfs (UCDs) that hide among the luminous globular clusters (GCs) in the halo of massive galaxies. An exciting confirmation of this model is the detection of overmassive black holes in the centers of some UCDs, which also lead to elevated dynamical mass-to-light ratios ( M / L dyn ). Here we present new high-resolution spectroscopic observations of 321 luminous GC candidates in the massive galaxy NGC 5128/Centaurus A. Using these data we confirm 27 new luminous GCs, and measure velocity dispersions for 57 luminous GCs (with g -band luminosities between 2.5 × 10 5 and 2.5 × 10 7 L ⊙ ), of which 48 are new measurements. Combining these data with size measurements from Gaia, we determine the M / L dyn for all 57 luminous GCs. We see a clear bimodality in the M / L dyn distribution, with a population of normal GCs with mean M / L dyn = 1.51 ± 0.31, and a second population of ∼20 GCs with elevated mean M / L dyn = 2.68 ± 0.22. We show that black holes with masses ∼4%–18% of the luminous GCs canmore »explain the elevated mass-to-light ratios. Hence, it is plausible that the NGC 5128 sources with elevated M / L dyn are mostly stripped galaxy nuclei that contain massive central black holes, though future high spatial resolution observations are necessary to confirm this hypothesis for individual sources. We also present a detailed discussion of an extreme outlier, VHH81-01 , one of the largest and most massive GC in NGC 5128, making it an exceptionally strong candidate to be a tidally stripped nucleus.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  4. Abstract We present deep Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging of five faint dwarf galaxies associated with the nearby spiral NGC 253 (D ≈ 3.5 Mpc). Three of these are newly discovered dwarf galaxies, while all five were found in the Panoramic Imaging Survey of Centaurus and Sculptor, a Magellan+Megacam survey to identify faint dwarfs and other substructures in resolved stellar light around massive galaxies outside of the Local Group. Our HST data reach ≳3 magnitudes below the tip of the red giant branch for each dwarf, allowing us to derive their distances, structural parameters, and luminosities. All five systems contain mostly old, metal-poor stellar populations (age ∼12 Gyr, [M/H] ≲ −1.5) and have sizes ( r h ∼ 110–3000 pc) and luminosities ( M V ∼ −7 to −12 mag) largely consistent with Local Group dwarfs. The three new NGC 253 satellites are among the faintest systems discovered beyond the Local Group. We also use archival H i data to place limits on the gas content of our discoveries. Deep imaging surveys such as our program around NGC 253 promise to elucidate the faint end of the satellite luminosity function and its scatter across a range of galaxy masses, morphologies,more »and environments in the decade to come.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  5. Abstract A thermonuclear explosion triggered by a He-shell detonation on a carbon–oxygen white-dwarf core has been predicted to have strong UV line blanketing at early times due to the iron-group elements produced during He-shell burning. We present the photometric and spectroscopic observations of SN 2016dsg, a subluminous peculiar Type I supernova consistent with a thermonuclear explosion involving a thick He shell. With a redshift of 0.04, the i -band peak absolute magnitude is derived to be around −17.5. The object is located far away from its host, an early-type galaxy, suggesting it originated from an old stellar population. The spectra collected after the peak are unusually red, show strong UV line blanketing and weak O i λ 7773 absorption lines, and do not evolve significantly over 30 days. An absorption line around 9700–10500 Å is detected in the near-infrared spectrum and is likely from the unburnt He in the ejecta. The spectroscopic evolution is consistent with the thermonuclear explosion models for a sub-Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarf with a thick He shell, while the photometric evolution is not well described by existing models.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 28, 2023
  6. Abstract We present high-cadence optical and ultraviolet light curves of the normal Type Ia supernova (SN) 2021aefx, which shows an early bump during the first two days of observation. This bump may be a signature of interaction between the exploding white dwarf and a nondegenerate binary companion, or it may be intrinsic to the white dwarf explosion mechanism. In the case of the former, the short duration of the bump implies a relatively compact main-sequence companion star, although this conclusion is viewing-angle dependent. Our best-fit companion-shocking and double-detonation models both overpredict the UV luminosity during the bump, and existing nickel-shell models do not match the strength and timescale of the bump. We also present nebular spectra of SN 2021aefx, which do not show the hydrogen or helium emission expected from a nondegenerate companion, as well as a radio nondetection that rules out all symbiotic progenitor systems and most accretion disk winds. Our analysis places strong but conflicting constraints on the progenitor of SN 2021aefx; no current model can explain all of our observations.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  7. ABSTRACT We present results from a resolved stellar population search for dwarf satellite galaxies of six nearby (D < 5 Mpc), sub-Milky Way mass hosts using deep (m ∼ 27 mag) optical imaging from the Large Binocular Telescope. We perform image simulations to quantify our detection efficiency for dwarfs over a large range in luminosity and size, and develop a fast catalogue-based emulator that includes a treatment of unresolved photometric blending. We discover no new dwarf satellites, but we recover two previously known dwarfs (DDO 113 and LV J1228+4358) with MV < −12 that lie in our survey volume. We preview a new theoretical framework to predict satellite luminosity functions using analytical probability distribution functions and apply it to our sample, finding that we predict one fewer classical dwarf and one more faint dwarf (MV ∼ −7.5) than we find in our observational sample (i.e. the observational sample is slightly top-heavy). However, the overall number of dwarfs in the observational sample (2) is in good agreement with the theoretical expectations. Interestingly, DDO 113 shows signs of environmental quenching and LV J1228+4358 is tidally disrupting, suggesting that low-mass hosts may affect their satellites more severely than previously believed.
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  9. Abstract The two sources AGC 226178 and NGVS 3543, an extremely faint, clumpy, blue stellar system and a low surface brightness dwarf spheroidal, are adjacent systems in the direction of the Virgo cluster. Both have been studied in detail previously, with it being suggested that they are unrelated normal dwarf galaxies or that NGVS 3543 recently lost its gas through ram pressure stripping and AGC 226178 formed from this stripped gas. However, with Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys imaging, we demonstrate that the stellar population of NGVS 3543 is inconsistent with being at the distance of the Virgo cluster and that it is likely a foreground object at approximately 10 Mpc, whereas the stellar population of AGC 226178 is consistent with it being a very young (10–100 Myr) object in the Virgo cluster. Through a reanalysis of the original ALFALFA H i detection, we show that AGC 226178 likely formed from gas stripped from the nearby dwarf galaxy VCC 2034, a hypothesis strengthened by the high metallicity measured with MUSE VLT observations. However, it is unclear whether ram pressure or a tidal interaction is responsible for stripping the gas. Object AGC 226178 is one of at least fivemore »similar objects now known toward Virgo. These objects are all young and unlikely to remain visible for over ∼500 Myr, suggesting that they are continually produced in the cluster.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
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