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  1. Abstract

    The LIGO HET Response (LIGHETR) project is an enterprise to follow up optical transients (OTs) discovered as gravitational-wave merger sources by the LIGO/Virgo collaboration (LVC). Early spectroscopy has the potential to constrain crucial parameters such as the aspect angle. The LIGHETR collaboration also includes the capacity to model the spectroscopic evolution of mergers to facilitate a real-time direct comparison of models with our data. The principal facility is the Hobby–Eberly Telescope. LIGHETR uses the massively replicated VIRUS array of spectrographs to search for associated OTs and obtain early blue spectra, and in a complementary role, the low-resolution LRS2 spectrograph is used to obtain spectra of viable candidates as well as a densely sampled series of spectra of true counterparts. Once an OT is identified, the anticipated cadence of spectra would match or considerably exceed anything achieved for GW170817 = AT2017gfo for which there were no spectra in the first 12 hr and thereafter only roughly once daily. We describe special HET-specific software written to facilitate the program and attempts to determine the flux limits to undetected sources. We also describe our campaign to follow up OT candidates during the third observational campaign of the LIGO and Virgo Scientific Collaborations. We obtained VIRUS spectroscopy of candidate galaxy hosts for five LVC gravitational-wave events and LRS2 spectra of one candidate for the OT associated with S190901ap. We identified that candidate, ZTF19abvionh = AT2019pip, as a possible Wolf–Rayet star in an otherwise unrecognized nearby dwarf galaxy.

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  2. Abstract

    We present photometric and spectroscopic observations of the extraordinary gamma-ray burst (GRB) 221009A in search of an associated supernova. Some past GRBs have shown bumps in the optical light curve that coincide with the emergence of supernova spectral features, but we do not detect any significant light-curve features in GRB 221009A, nor do we detect any clear sign of supernova spectral features. Using two well-studied GRB-associated supernovae (SN 2013dx,Mr,max=19.54;SN 2016jca,Mr,max=19.04) at a similar redshift as GRB 221009A (z= 0.151), we modeled how the emergence of a supernova would affect the light curve. If we assume the GRB afterglow to decay at the same rate as the X-ray data, the combination of afterglow and a supernova component is fainter than the observed GRB brightness. For the case where we assume the best-fit power law to the optical data as the GRB afterglow component, a supernova contribution should have created a clear bump in the light curve, assuming only extinction from the Milky Way. If we assume a higher extinction ofE(BV) = 1.74 mag (as has been suggested elsewhere), the supernova contribution would have been hard to detect, with a limit on the associated supernova ofMr,max19.54. We do not observe any clear supernova features in our spectra, which were taken around the time of expected maximum light. The lack of a bright supernova associated with GRB 221009A may indicate that the energy from the explosion is mostly concentrated in the jet, leaving a lower energy budget available for the supernova.

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  3. Abstract

    We present a comprehensive analysis of 653 optical candidate counterparts reported during the third gravitational-wave (GW) observing run. Our sample concentrates on candidates from the 15 events (published in GWTC-2, GWTC-3, or not retracted on GraceDB) that had a >1% chance of including a neutron star in order to assess their viability as true kilonovae. In particular, we leverage tools available in real time, including pre-merger detections and cross-matching with catalogs (i.e., point-source, variable-star, quasar and host-galaxy redshift data sets), to eliminate 65% of candidates in our sample. We further employ spectroscopic classifications, late-time detections, and light-curve behavior analyses and conclude that 66 candidates remain viable kilonovae. These candidates lack sufficient information to determine their classifications, and the majority would require luminosities greater than that of AT 2017gfo. Pre-merger detections in public photometric survey data and comparison of cataloged host-galaxy redshifts with the GW event distances are critical to incorporate into vetting procedures, as these tools eliminated >20% and >30% of candidates, respectively. We expect that such tools that leverage archival information will significantly reduce the strain on spectroscopic and photometric follow-up resources in future observing runs. Finally, we discuss the critical role prompt updates from GW astronomers to the EM community play in reducing the number of candidates requiring vetting.

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  4. Abstract We present optical follow-up imaging obtained with the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Nickel Telescope, Swope Telescope, and Thacher Telescope of the LIGO/Virgo gravitational wave (GW) signal from the neutron star–black hole (NSBH) merger GW190814. We searched the GW190814 localization region (19 deg 2 for the 90th percentile best localization), covering a total of 51 deg 2 and 94.6% of the two-dimensional localization region. Analyzing the properties of 189 transients that we consider as candidate counterparts to the NSBH merger, including their localizations, discovery times from merger, optical spectra, likely host galaxy redshifts, and photometric evolution, we conclude that none of these objects are likely to be associated with GW190814. Based on this finding, we consider the likely optical properties of an electromagnetic counterpart to GW190814, including possible kilonovae and short gamma-ray burst afterglows. Using the joint limits from our follow-up imaging, we conclude that a counterpart with an r -band decline rate of 0.68 mag day −1 , similar to the kilonova AT 2017gfo, could peak at an absolute magnitude of at most −17.8 mag (50% confidence). Our data are not constraining for “red” kilonovae and rule out “blue” kilonovae with M > 0.5 M ⊙ (30% confidence). We strongly rule out all known types of short gamma-ray burst afterglows with viewing angles <17° assuming an initial jet opening angle of ∼5.°2 and explosion energies and circumburst densities similar to afterglows explored in the literature. Finally, we explore the possibility that GW190814 merged in the disk of an active galactic nucleus, of which we find four in the localization region, but we do not find any candidate counterparts among these sources. 
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