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    Blue large-amplitude pulsators (BLAPs) make up a rare class of hot pulsating stars with effective temperatures of ≈30 000 K and surface gravities of 4.0–5.0 dex (cgs). The evolutionary origin and current status of BLAPs is not well understood, largely based on a lack of spectroscopic observations and no available mass constraints. However, several theoretical models have been proposed that reproduce their observed properties, including studies that identify them as pulsating helium-core pre-white dwarfs (He-core pre-WDs). We present here follow-up high-speed photometry and phase-resolved spectroscopy of one of the original 14 BLAPs, OGLE-BLAP-009, discovered during the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment. We aim to explore its pulsation characteristics and determine stellar properties such as mass and radius in order to test the consistency of these results with He-core pre-WD models. Using the mean atmospheric parameters found using spectroscopy, we fit a spectral energy distribution to obtain a preliminary estimate of the radius, luminosity, and mass by making use of the Gaia parallax. We then compare the consistency of these results to He-core pre-WD models generated using Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics, with predicted pulsation periods implemented using gyre. We find that our mass constraints are in agreement with a low-mass He-core pre-WD of ≈0.30 M⊙.

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    We present the discoveries of two of AM CVn systems, Gaia14aae and SDSS J080449.49+161624.8, which show X-ray pulsations at their orbital periods, indicative of magnetically collimated accretion. Both also show indications of higher rates of mass transfer relative to the expectations from binary evolution driven purely by gravitational radiation, based on existing optical data for Gaia14aae, which show a hotter white dwarf temperature than expected from standard evolutionary models, and X-ray data for SDSS J080449.49+161624.8 which show a luminosity 10−100 times higher than those for other AM CVn at similar orbital periods. The higher mass transfer rates could be driven by magnetic braking from the disc wind interacting with the magnetosphere of the tidally locked accretor. We discuss implications of this additional angular momentum transport mechanism for evolution and gravitational wave detectability of AM CVn objects.

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    We present multi-epoch spectroscopic follow-up of a sample of ellipsoidal variables selected from Gaia Data Release 3 (DR3) as candidates for hosting quiescent black holes (BHs) and neutron stars (NSs). Our targets were identified as BH/NS candidates because their optical light curves – when interpreted with models that attribute variability to tidal distortion of a star by a companion that contributes negligible light – suggest that the companions are compact objects. From the likely BH/NS candidates identified in recent work accompanying Gaia DR3, we select 14 of the most promising targets for follow-up. We obtained spectra for each object at 2–10 epochs, strategically observing near conjunction to best constrain the radial velocity semi-amplitude. From the measured semi-amplitudes of the radial velocity curves, we derive minimum companion masses of $M_{2,\, \rm min} \le 0.5 \, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ in all cases. Assuming random inclinations, the typical inferred companion mass is $M_2 \sim 0.15\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$. This makes it unlikely that any of these systems contain a BH or NS, and we consider alternative explanations for the observed variability. We can best reproduce the observed light curves and radial velocities with models for unequal-mass contact binaries with star-spots. Some of the objects in our sample may also be detached main-sequence binaries, or even single stars with pulsations or star-spot variability masquerading as ellipsoidal variation. We provide recommendations for future spectroscopic efforts to further characterize this sample and more generally to search for compact object companions in close binaries.

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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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    We constrain the orbital period (Porb) distribution of low-mass detached main-sequence eclipsing binaries (EBs) with light-curves from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which provides a well-understood selection function and sensitivity to faint stars. At short periods (Porb ≲ 2 d), binaries are predicted to evolve significantly due to magnetic braking (MB), which shrinks orbits and ultimately brings detached binaries into contact. The period distribution is thus a sensitive probe of MB. We find that the intrinsic period distribution of low-mass (0.1 ≲ M1/M⊙ < 0.9) binaries is basically flat (${\rm d}N/{\rm d}P_{\rm orb} \propto P_{\rm orb}^0$) from Porb = 10 d down to the contact limit. This is strongly inconsistent with predictions of classical MB models based on the Skumanich relation, which are widely used in binary evolution calculations and predict ${\rm d}N/{\rm d}P_{\rm orb} \propto P_{\rm orb}^{7/3}$ at short periods. The observed distributions are best reproduced by models in which the magnetic field saturates at short periods with a MB torque that scales roughly as $\dot{J}\propto P_{\rm orb}^{-1}$, as opposed to $\dot{J} \propto P_{\rm orb}^{-3}$ in the standard Skumanich law. We also find no significant difference between the period distributions of binaries containing fully and partially convective stars. Our results confirm that a saturated MB law, which was previously found to describe the spin-down of rapidly rotating isolated M dwarfs, also operates in tidally locked binaries. We advocate using saturated MB models in binary evolution calculations. Our work supports previous suggestions that MB in cataclysmic variables (CVs) is much weaker than assumed in the standard evolutionary model, unless mass transfer leads to significant additional angular momentum loss in CVs.

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  7. 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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  8. Abstract

    One of the open questions following the discovery of GW170817 is whether neutron star (NS) mergers are the only astrophysical sites capable of producingr-process elements. Simulations have shown that 0.01–0.1Mofr-process material could be generated in the outflows originating from the accretion disk surrounding the rapidly rotating black hole that forms as a remnant to both NS mergers and collapsing massive stars associated with long-duration gamma-ray bursts (collapsars). The hallmark signature ofr-process nucleosynthesis in the binary NS merger GW170817 was its long-lasting near-infrared (NIR) emission, thus motivating a systematic photometric study of the light curves of broad-lined stripped-envelope (Ic-BL) supernovae (SNe) associated with collapsars. We present the first systematic study of 25 SNe Ic-BL—including 18 observed with the Zwicky Transient Facility and 7 from the literature—in the optical/NIR bands to determine what quantity ofr-process material, if any, is synthesized in these explosions. Using semi-analytic models designed to account forr-process production in SNe Ic-BL, we perform light curve fitting to derive constraints on ther-process mass for these SNe. We also perform independent light curve fits to models without ther-process. We find that ther-process-free models are a better fit to the light curves of the objects in our sample. Thus, we find no compelling evidence ofr-process enrichment in any of our objects. Further high-cadence infrared photometric studies and nebular spectroscopic analysis would be sensitive to smaller quantities ofr-process ejecta mass or indicate whether all collapsars are completely devoid ofr-process nucleosynthesis.

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  9. Abstract

    We report the discovery of ZTF J0127+5258, a compact mass-transferring binary with an orbital period of 13.7 minutes. The system contains a white dwarf accretor, which likely originated as a post–common envelope carbon–oxygen (CO) white dwarf, and a warm donor (Teff,donor= 16,400 ± 1000 K). The donor probably formed during a common envelope phase between the CO white dwarf and an evolving giant that left behind a helium star or white dwarf in a close orbit with the CO white dwarf. We measure gravitational wave–driven orbital inspiral with ∼51σsignificance, which yields a joint constraint on the component masses and mass transfer rate. While the accretion disk in the system is dominated by ionized helium emission, the donor exhibits a mixture of hydrogen and helium absorption lines. Phase-resolved spectroscopy yields a donor radial velocity semiamplitude of 771 ± 27 km s−1, and high-speed photometry reveals that the system is eclipsing. We detect a Chandra X-ray counterpart withLX∼ 3 × 1031erg s−1. Depending on the mass transfer rate, the system will likely either evolve into a stably mass-transferring helium cataclysmic variable, merge to become an R CrB star, or explode as a Type Ia supernova in the next million years. We predict that the Laser Space Interferometer Antenna (LISA) will detect the source with a signal-to-noise ratio of 24 ± 6 after 4 yr of observations. The system is the first LISA-loud mass-transferring binary with an intrinsically luminous donor, a class of sources that provide the opportunity to leverage the synergy between optical and infrared time domain surveys, X-ray facilities, and gravitational-wave observatories to probe general relativity, accretion physics, and binary evolution.

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    Blue Large-Amplitude Pulsators (BLAPs) are a relatively new class of blue variable stars showing periodic variations in their light curves with periods shorter than a few tens of minutes and amplitudes of more than 10 per cent. We report nine blue variable stars identified in the OmegaWhite survey conducted using ESO’s VST, which shows a periodic modulation in the range 7–37 min and an amplitude in the range 0.11–0.28 mag. We have obtained a series of followup photometric and spectroscopic observations made primarily using SALT and telescopes at SAAO. We find four stars which we identify as BLAPs, one of which was previously known. One star, OW  J0820–3301, appears to be a member of the V361 Hya class of pulsating stars and is spatially close to an extended nebula. One further star, OW J1819–2729, has characteristics similar to the sdAV pulsators. In contrast, OW J0815–3421 is a binary star containing an sdB and a white dwarf with an orbital period of 73.7 min, making it only one of six white dwarf-sdB binaries with an orbital period shorter than 80 min. Finally, high cadence photometry of four of the candidate BLAPs show features that we compare with notch-like features seen in the much longer period Cepheid pulsators.

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