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  1. Abstract We present nimbus : a hierarchical Bayesian framework to infer the intrinsic luminosity parameters of kilonovae (KNe) associated with gravitational-wave (GW) events, based purely on nondetections. This framework makes use of GW 3D distance information and electromagnetic upper limits from multiple surveys for multiple events and self-consistently accounts for the finite sky coverage and probability of astrophysical origin. The framework is agnostic to the brightness evolution assumed and can account for multiple electromagnetic passbands simultaneously. Our analyses highlight the importance of accounting for model selection effects, especially in the context of nondetections. We show our methodology using a simple, two-parameter linear brightness model, taking the follow-up of GW190425 with the Zwicky Transient Facility as a single-event test case for two different prior choices of model parameters: (i) uniform/uninformative priors and (ii) astrophysical priors based on surrogate models of Monte Carlo radiative-transfer simulations of KNe. We present results under the assumption that the KN is within the searched region to demonstrate functionality and the importance of prior choice. Our results show consistency with simsurvey —an astronomical survey simulation tool used previously in the literature to constrain the population of KNe. While our results based on uniform priors strongly constrain themore »parameter space, those based on astrophysical priors are largely uninformative, highlighting the need for deeper constraints. Future studies with multiple events having electromagnetic follow-up from multiple surveys should make it possible to constrain the KN population further.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  3. Abstract The discovery of the electromagnetic counterpart to the binary neutron star (NS) merger GW170817 has opened the era of gravitational-wave multimessenger astronomy. Rapid identification of the optical/infrared kilonova enabled a precise localization of the source, which paved the way to deep multiwavelength follow-up and its myriad of related science results. Fully exploiting this new territory of exploration requires the acquisition of electromagnetic data from samples of NS mergers and other gravitational-wave sources. After GW170817, the frontier is now to map the diversity of kilonova properties and provide more stringent constraints on the Hubble constant, and enable new tests of fundamental physics. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time can play a key role in this field in the 2020s, when an improved network of gravitational-wave detectors is expected to reach a sensitivity that will enable the discovery of a high rate of merger events involving NSs (∼tens per year) out to distances of several hundred megaparsecs. We design comprehensive target-of-opportunity observing strategies for follow-up of gravitational-wave triggers that will make the Rubin Observatory the premier instrument for discovery and early characterization of NS and other compact-object mergers, and yet unknown classes of gravitational-wave events.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  4. ABSTRACT The localization of stellar-mass binary black hole mergers using gravitational waves is critical in understanding the properties of the binaries’ host galaxies, observing possible electromagnetic emission from the mergers, or using them as a cosmological distance ladder. The precision of this localization can be substantially increased with prior astrophysical information about the binary system. In particular, constraining the inclination of the binary can reduce the distance uncertainty of the source. Here, we present the first realistic set of localizations for binary black hole mergers, including different prior constraints on the binaries’ inclinations. We find that prior information on the inclination can reduce the localization volume by a factor of 3. We discuss two astrophysical scenarios of interest: (i) follow-up searches for beamed electromagnetic/neutrino counterparts and (ii) mergers in the accretion discs of active galactic nuclei.
  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 Search 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-raymore »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. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are among the brightest and most energetic events in the universe. The duration and hardness distribution of GRBs has two clusters, now understood to reflect (at least) two different progenitors. Short-hard GRBs (SGRBs; T90 <2 s) arise from compact binary mergers, while long-soft GRBs (LGRBs; T90 >2 s) have been attributed to the collapse of peculiar massive stars (collapsars). The discovery of SN 1998bw/GRB 980425 marked the first association of a LGRB with a collapsar and AT 2017gfo/GRB 170817A/GW170817 marked the first association of a SGRB with a binary neutron star merger, producing also gravitational wave (GW). Here, we present the discovery of ZTF20abwysqy (AT2020scz), a fast-fading optical transient in the Fermi Satellite and the InterPlanetary Network (IPN) localization regions of GRB 200826A; X-ray and radio emission further confirm that this is the afterglow. Follow-up imaging (at rest-frame 16.5 days) reveals excess emission above the afterglow that cannot be explained as an underlying kilonova (KN), but is consistent with being the supernova (SN). Despite the GRB duration being short (rest-frame T90 of 0.65 s), our panchromatic follow-up data confirms a collapsar origin. GRB 200826A is the shortest LGRB found with an associated collapsar; it appears to sitmore »on the brink between a successful and a failed collapsar. Our discovery is consistent with the hypothesis that most collapsars fail to produce ultra-relativistic jets.« less