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  1. 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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  2. Abstract

    The fate of stars in the zero-age main-sequence (ZAMS) range ≈8–12Mis unclear. They could evolve to form white dwarfs or explode as electron-capture supernovae (SNe) or iron core-collapse SNe (CCSNe). Even though the initial mass function indicates that this mass range should account for over 40% of all CCSN progenitors, few have been observationally confirmed, likely due to the faintness and rapid evolution of some of these transients. In this paper, we present a sample of nine Ca-rich/O-poor Type IIb SNe detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility with progenitors likely in this mass range. These sources have a [Caii]λλ7291, 7324/[Oi]λλ6300, 6364 flux ratio of ≳2 in their nebular spectra. Comparing the measured [Oi] luminosity (≲1039erg s−1) and derived oxygen mass (≈0.01M) with theoretical models, we infer that the progenitor ZAMS mass for these explosions is less than 12M. The ejecta properties (Mej≲ 1MandEkin∼ 1050erg) are also consistent. The low ejecta mass of these sources indicates a class of strongly-stripped SNe that is a transition between the regular stripped-envelope SNe and ultra-stripped SNe. The progenitor could be stripped by a main-sequence companion and result in the formation of a neutron star−main sequence binary. Such binaries have been suggested to be progenitors of neutron star−white dwarf systems that could merge within a Hubble time and be detectable with LISA.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  4. 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
  5. 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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  6. Abstract The detonation of a thin (≲0.03 M ⊙ ) helium shell (He-shell) atop a ∼1 M ⊙ white dwarf (WD) is a promising mechanism to explain normal Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), while thicker He-shells and less massive WDs may explain some recently observed peculiar SNe Ia. We present observations of SN 2020jgb, a peculiar SN Ia discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). Near maximum brightness, SN 2020jgb is slightly subluminous (ZTF g -band absolute magnitude −18.7 mag ≲ M g ≲ −18.2 mag depending on the amount of host-galaxy extinction) and shows an unusually red color (0.2 mag ≲ g ZTF − r ZTF ≲ 0.4 mag) due to strong line-blanketing blueward of ∼5000 Å. These properties resemble those of SN 2018byg, a peculiar SN Ia consistent with an He-shell double detonation (DDet) SN. Using detailed radiative transfer models, we show that the optical spectroscopic and photometric evolution of SN 2020jgb is broadly consistent with a ∼0.95–1.00 M ⊙ (C/O core + He-shell) progenitor ignited by a ≳0.1 M ⊙ He-shell. However, one-dimensional radiative transfer models without non-local-thermodynamic-equilibrium treatment cannot accurately characterize the line-blanketing features, making the actual shell mass uncertain. We detect a prominent absorption feature at ∼1 μ m in the near-infrared (NIR) spectrum of SN 2020jgb, which might originate from unburnt helium in the outermost ejecta. While the sample size is limited, we find similar 1 μ m features in all the peculiar He-shell DDet candidates with NIR spectra obtained to date. SN 2020jgb is also the first peculiar He-shell DDet SN discovered in a star-forming dwarf galaxy, indisputably showing that He-shell DDet SNe occur in both star-forming and passive galaxies, consistent with the normal SN Ia population. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  7. We present photometric and spectroscopic observations of the Type IIn supernova SN 2019zrk (also known as ZTF 20aacbyec). The SN shows a > 100 day precursor, with a slow rise, followed by a rapid rise to M  ≈ −19.2 in the r and g bands. The post-peak light-curve decline is well fit with an exponential decay with a timescale of ∼39 days, but it shows prominent undulations, with an amplitude of ∼1 mag. Both the light curve and spectra are dominated by an interaction with a dense circumstellar medium (CSM), probably from previous mass ejections. The spectra evolve from a scattering-dominated Type IIn spectrum to a spectrum with strong P-Cygni absorptions. The expansion velocity is high, ∼16 000 km s −1 , even in the last spectra. The last spectrum ∼110 days after the main eruption reveals no evidence for advanced nucleosynthesis. From analysis of the spectra and light curves, we estimate the mass-loss rate to be ∼4 × 10 −2   M ⊙ yr −1 for a CSM velocity of 100 km s −1 , and a CSM mass of 1  M ⊙ . We find strong similarities for both the precursor, general light curve, and spectral evolution with SN 2009ip and similar SNe, although SN 2019zrk displays a brighter peak magnitude. Different scenarios for the nature of the 09ip-class of SNe, based on pulsational pair instability eruptions, wave heating, and mergers, are discussed. 
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  8. Abstract Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are thermonuclear explosions of degenerate white dwarf stars destabilized by mass accretion from a companion star 1 , but the nature of their progenitors remains poorly understood. A way to discriminate between progenitor systems is through radio observations; a non-degenerate companion star is expected to lose material through winds 2 or binary interaction 3 before explosion, and the supernova ejecta crashing into this nearby circumstellar material should result in radio synchrotron emission. However, despite extensive efforts, no type Ia supernova (SN Ia) has ever been detected at radio wavelengths, which suggests a clean environment and a companion star that is itself a degenerate white dwarf star 4,5 . Here we report on the study of SN 2020eyj, a SN Ia showing helium-rich circumstellar material, as demonstrated by its spectral features, infrared emission and, for the first time in a SN Ia to our knowledge, a radio counterpart. On the basis of our modelling, we conclude that the circumstellar material probably originates from a single-degenerate binary system in which a white dwarf accretes material from a helium donor star, an often proposed formation channel for SNe Ia (refs.  6,7 ). We describe how comprehensive radio follow-up of SN 2020eyj-like SNe Ia can improve the constraints on their progenitor systems. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 18, 2024
  9. Abstract

    We report observations of the optical counterpart of the long gamma-ray burst GRB 221009A. Due to the extreme rarity of being both nearby (z= 0.151) and highly energetic (Eγ,iso≥ 1054erg), GRB 221009A offers a unique opportunity to probe the connection between massive star core collapse and relativistic jet formation across a very broad range ofγ-ray properties. Adopting a phenomenological power-law model for the afterglow and host galaxy estimates from high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope imaging, we use Bayesian model comparison techniques to determine the likelihood of an associated supernova (SN) contributing excess flux to the optical light curve. Though not conclusive, we find moderate evidence (KBayes= 101.2) for the presence of an additional component arising from an associated SN, SN 2022xiw, and find that it must be substantially fainter (<67% as bright at the 99% confidence interval) than SN 1998bw. Given the large and uncertain line-of-sight extinction, we attempt to constrain the SN parameters (MNi,Mej, andEKE) under several different assumptions with respect to the host galaxy’s extinction. We find properties that are broadly consistent with previous GRB-associated SNe:MNi= 0.05–0.25M,Mej= 3.5–11.1M, andEKE= (1.6–5.2) × 1052erg. We note that these properties are weakly constrained due to the faintness of the SN with respect to the afterglow and host emission, but we do find a robust upper limit onMNiofMNi< 0.36M. Given the tremendous range in isotropic gamma-ray energy release exhibited by GRBs (seven orders of magnitude), the SN emission appears to be decoupled from the central engine in these systems.

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  10. Abstract

    Luminous red novae (LRNe) are transients characterized by low luminosities and expansion velocities, and they are associated with mergers or common-envelope ejections in stellar binaries. Intermediate-luminosity red transients (ILRTs) are an observationally similar class with unknown origins, but they are generally believed to be either electron-capture supernovae in super-asymptotic giant branch stars or outbursts in dusty luminous blue variables (LBVs). In this paper, we present a systematic sample of eight LRNe and eight ILRTs detected as part of the Census of the Local Universe (CLU) experiment on the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). The CLU experiment spectroscopically classifies ZTF transients associated with nearby (<150 Mpc) galaxies, achieving 80% completeness formr< 20 mag. Using the ZTF-CLU sample, we derive the first systematic LRNe volumetric rate of7.83.7+6.5×105Mpc−3yr−1in the luminosity range −16 ≤Mr≤ −11 mag. We find that, in this luminosity range, the LRN rate scales asdN/dLL2.5±0.3—significantly steeper than the previously derived scaling ofL−1.4±0.3for lower-luminosity LRNe (MV≥ −10 mag). The steeper power law for LRNe at high luminosities is consistent with the massive merger rates predicted by binary population synthesis models. We find that the rates of the brightest LRNe (Mr≤ −13 mag) are consistent with a significant fraction of them being progenitors of double compact objects that merge within a Hubble time. For ILRTs, we derive a volumetric rate of2.61.4+1.8×106Mpc−3yr−1forMr≤ −13.5 mag, which scales asdN/dLL2.5±0.5. This rate is ∼1%–5% of the local core-collapse supernova rate and is consistent with theoretical ECSN rate estimates.

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