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  1. Abstract

    Gravitational-wave (GW) detections of merging neutron star–black hole (NSBH) systems probe astrophysical neutron star (NS) and black hole (BH) mass distributions, especially at the transition between NS and BH masses. Of particular interest are the maximum NS mass, minimum BH mass, and potential mass gap between them. While previous GW population analyses assumed all NSs obey the same maximum mass, if rapidly spinning NSs exist, they can extend to larger maximum masses than nonspinning NSs. In fact, several authors have proposed that the ∼2.6Mobject in the event GW190814—either the most massive NS or least massive BH observed to date—is a rapidly spinning NS. We therefore infer the NSBH mass distribution jointly with the NS spin distribution, modeling the NS maximum mass as a function of spin. Using four LIGO–Virgo NSBH events including GW190814, if we assume that the NS spin distribution is uniformly distributed up to the maximum (breakup) spin, we infer the maximum nonspinning NS mass is2.70.4+0.5M(90% credibility), while assuming only nonspinning NSs, the NS maximum mass must be >2.53M(90% credibility). The data support the mass gap’s existence, with a minimum BH mass at5.41.0+0.7M. With future observations, under simplified assumptions, 150more »NSBH events may constrain the maximum nonspinning NS mass to ±0.02M, and we may even measure the relation between the NS spin and maximum mass entirely from GW data. If rapidly rotating NSs exist, their spins and masses must be modeled simultaneously to avoid biasing the NS maximum mass.

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  2. It is the responsibility of today’s scientists, engineers, and educators to inspire and encourage our youth into technical careers that benefit our society. Too often, however, this responsibility is buried beneath daily job demands and the routines of teaching. Space Public Outreach Team (SPOT) programs leverage a train-the-trainer model to empower college students to make meaningful impacts in their local communities by engaging and inspiring younger students through science presentations. SPOT takes advantage of the excitement of space and the natural way college students serve as role models for children. The result is a win-win program for all involved. This paper describes the original Montana SPOT program, presents analyses demonstrating the success of SPOT, gives overviews of program adaptations in West Virginia and with the NANOGrav collaboration, describes how college student presenters are able to share complex topics, and discusses the importance of college student role models. We hope that our experiences with SPOT will help others implement similar strategies in their own communities.