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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. Abstract We present observations of SN 2021csp, the second example of a newly identified type of supernova (SN) hallmarked by strong, narrow, P Cygni carbon features at early times (Type Icn). The SN appears as a fast and luminous blue transient at early times, reaching a peak absolute magnitude of −20 within 3 days due to strong interaction between fast SN ejecta ( v ≈ 30,000 km s −1 ) and a massive, dense, fast-moving C/O wind shed by the WC-like progenitor months before explosion. The narrow-line features disappear from the spectrum 10–20 days after explosion and are replaced bymore »a blue continuum dominated by broad Fe features, reminiscent of Type Ibn and IIn supernovae and indicative of weaker interaction with more extended H/He-poor material. The transient then abruptly fades ∼60 days post-explosion when interaction ceases. Deep limits at later phases suggest minimal heavy-element nucleosynthesis, a low ejecta mass, or both, and imply an origin distinct from that of classical Type Ic SNe. We place SN 2021csp in context with other fast-evolving interacting transients, and discuss various progenitor scenarios: an ultrastripped progenitor star, a pulsational pair-instability eruption, or a jet-driven fallback SN from a Wolf–Rayet (W-R) star. The fallback scenario would naturally explain the similarity between these events and radio-loud fast transients, and suggests a picture in which most stars massive enough to undergo a W-R phase collapse directly to black holes at the end of their lives.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2022
  4. Abstract The nova rate in the Milky Way remains largely uncertain, despite its vital importance in constraining models of Galactic chemical evolution as well as understanding progenitor channels for Type Ia supernovae. The rate has been previously estimated to be in the range of ≈10–300 yr −1 , either based on extrapolations from a handful of very bright optical novae or the nova rates in nearby galaxies; both methods are subject to debatable assumptions. The total discovery rate of optical novae remains much smaller (≈5–10 yr −1 ) than these estimates, even with the advent of all-sky optical time-domain surveys.more »Here, we present a systematic sample of 12 spectroscopically confirmed Galactic novae detected in the first 17 months of Palomar Gattini-IR (PGIR), a wide-field near-infrared time-domain survey. Operating in the J band (≈1.2 μ m), which is significantly less affected by dust extinction compared to optical bands, the extinction distribution of the PGIR sample is highly skewed to a large extinction values (>50% of events obscured by A V ≳ 5 mag). Using recent estimates for the distribution of Galactic mass and dust, we show that the extinction distribution of the PGIR sample is commensurate with dust models. The PGIR extinction distribution is inconsistent with that reported in previous optical searches (null-hypothesis probability <0.01%), suggesting that a large population of highly obscured novae have been systematically missed in previous optical searches. We perform the first quantitative simulation of a 3 π time-domain survey to estimate the Galactic nova rate using PGIR, and derive a rate of ≈ 43.7 − 8.7 + 19.5 yr −1 . Our results suggest that all-sky near-infrared time-domain surveys are well poised to uncover the Galactic nova population.« less
  5. The many unusual properties of the enigmatic AT2018cow suggested that at least some subset of the empirical class of fast blue optical transients (FBOTs) represents a genuinely new astrophysical phenomenon. Unfortunately, the intrinsic rarity and fleeting nature of these events have made it difficult to identify additional examples early enough to acquire the observations necessary to constrain theoretical models. We present here the Zwicky Transient Facility discovery of AT2020xnd (ZTF20acigmel, the "Camel") at z=0.243, the first unambiguous AT2018cow analog to be found and confirmed in real time. AT2018cow and AT2020xnd share all key observational properties: a fast optical rise, sustainedmore »high photospheric temperature, absence of a second peak attributable to ejection of a radioactively-heated stellar envelope, extremely luminous radio, millimetre, and X-ray emission, and a dwarf-galaxy host. This supports the argument that AT2018cow-like events represent a distinct phenomenon from slower-evolving radio-quiet supernovae, likely requiring a different progenitor or a different central engine. The sample properties of the four known members of this class to date disfavour tidal disruption models but are consistent with the alternative model of an accretion powered jet following the direct collapse of a massive star to a black hole. Contextual filtering of alert streams combined with rapid photometric verification using multi-band imaging provides an efficient way to identify future members of this class, even at high redshift.« less
  6. 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 Searchmore »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-ray 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
  7. We present 42 rapidly evolving (time spent above half-maximum brightness t1/2<12d) extragalactic transients from Phase I of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), of which 22 have spectroscopic classifications. This is one of the largest systematically selected samples of day-timescale transients, and the first with spectroscopic classifications. Most can be classified as core-collapse supernovae (SNe), and we identify several predominant subtypes: (1) subluminous Type IIb or Type Ib SNe; (2) luminous Type Ibn or hybrid IIn/Ibn SNe; and (3) radio-loud, short-duration luminous events similar to AT2018cow. We conclude that rates quoted in the literature for rapidly evolving extragalactic transients are dominatedmore »by the subluminous events (mostly Type IIb SNe). From our spectroscopic classifications and radio, X-ray, and millimeter-band upper limits, we are motivated to consider the AT2018cow-like objects a distinct class, and use ZTF's systematic classification experiments to calculate that their rate does not exceed 0.1% of the local core-collapse SN rate, in agreement with previous work. By contrast, most other events are simply the extreme of a continuum of established SN types extending to ordinary timescales. The light curves of our objects are very similar to those of unclassified events in the literature, illustrating how spectroscopically classified samples of low-redshift objects in shallow surveys like ZTF can be used to photometrically classify larger numbers of events at higher redshift.« less