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  1. Abstract We present high-cadence optical, ultraviolet (UV), and near-infrared data of the nearby ( D ≈ 23 Mpc) Type II supernova (SN) 2021yja. Many Type II SNe show signs of interaction with circumstellar material (CSM) during the first few days after explosion, implying that their red supergiant (RSG) progenitors experience episodic or eruptive mass loss. However, because it is difficult to discover SNe early, the diversity of CSM configurations in RSGs has not been fully mapped. SN 2021yja, first detected within ≈ 5.4 hours of explosion, shows some signatures of CSM interaction (high UV luminosity and radio and x-ray emission) but without the narrow emission lines or early light-curve peak that can accompany CSM. Here we analyze the densely sampled early light curve and spectral series of this nearby SN to infer the properties of its progenitor and CSM. We find that the most likely progenitor was an RSG with an extended envelope, encompassed by low-density CSM. We also present archival Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the host galaxy of SN 2021yja, which allows us to place a stringent upper limit of ≲ 9 M ☉ on the progenitor mass. However, this is in tension with some aspects of themore »SN evolution, which point to a more massive progenitor. Our analysis highlights the need to consider progenitor structure when making inferences about CSM properties, and that a comprehensive view of CSM tracers should be made to give a fuller view of the last years of RSG evolution.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. Abstract On 2019 August 14 at 21:10:39 UTC, the LIGO/Virgo Collaboration (LVC) detected a possible neutron star–black hole merger (NSBH), the first ever identified. An extensive search for an optical counterpart of this event, designated GW190814, was undertaken using the Dark Energy Camera on the 4 m Victor M. Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. Target of Opportunity interrupts were issued on eight separate nights to observe 11 candidates using the 4.1 m Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope’s Goodman High Throughput Spectrograph in order to assess whether any of these transients was likely to be an optical counterpart of the possible NSBH merger. Here, we describe the process of observing with SOAR, the analysis of our spectra, our spectroscopic typing methodology, and our resultant conclusion that none of the candidates corresponded to the gravitational wave merger event but were all instead other transients. Finally, we describe the lessons learned from this effort. Application of these lessons will be critical for a successful community spectroscopic follow-up program for LVC observing run 4 (O4) and beyond.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  4. ABSTRACT The observed diversity in Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) – the thermonuclear explosions of carbon–oxygen white dwarf stars used as cosmological standard candles – is currently met with a variety of explosion models and progenitor scenarios. To help improve our understanding of whether and how often different models contribute to the occurrence of SNe Ia and their assorted properties, we present a comprehensive analysis of seven nearby SNe Ia. We obtained one to two epochs of optical spectra with Gemini Observatory during the nebular phase (>200 d past peak) for each of these events, all of which had time series of photometry and spectroscopy at early times (the first ∼8 weeks after explosion). We use the combination of early- and late-time observations to assess the predictions of various models for the explosion (e.g. double-detonation, off-centre detonation, stellar collisions), progenitor star (e.g. ejecta mass, metallicity), and binary companion (e.g. another white dwarf or a non-degenerate star). Overall, we find general consistency in our observations with spherically symmetric models for SN Ia explosions, and with scenarios in which the binary companion is another degenerate star. We also present an in-depth analysis of SN 2017fzw, a member of the subgroup of SNe Ia which appear to be transitional betweenmore »the subluminous ‘91bg-like’ events and normal SNe Ia, and for which nebular-phase spectra are rare.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 22, 2023
  5. 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 >more »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.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  6. Abstract We present deep Chandra X-ray observations of two nearby Type Ia supernovae, SN 2017cbv and SN 2020nlb, which reveal no X-ray emission down to a luminosity L X ≲ 5.3 × 10 37 and ≲ 5.4 × 10 37 erg s −1 (0.3–10 keV), respectively, at ∼16–18 days after the explosion. With these limits, we constrain the pre-explosion mass-loss rate of the progenitor system to be M ̇ < 7.2 × 10 −9 and < 9.7 × 10 −9 M ⊙ yr −1 for each (at a wind velocity v w = 100 km s −1 and a radius of R ≈ 10 16 cm), assuming any X-ray emission would originate from inverse Compton emission from optical photons upscattered by the supernova shock. If the supernova environment was a constant-density medium, we would find a number density limit of n CSM < 36 and < 65 cm −3 , respectively. These X-ray limits rule out all plausible symbiotic progenitor systems, as well as large swathes of parameter space associated with the single degenerate scenario, such as mass loss at the outer Lagrange point and accretion winds. We also present late-time optical spectroscopy of SN 2020nlb, and set strong limitsmore »on any swept up hydrogen ( L H α < 2.7 × 10 37 erg s −1 ) and helium ( L He, λ 6678 < 2.7 × 10 37 erg s −1 ) from a nondegenerate companion, corresponding to M H ≲ 0.7–2 × 10 −3 M ⊙ and M He ≲ 4 × 10 −3 M ⊙ . Radio observations of SN 2020nlb at 14.6 days after explosion also yield a non-detection, ruling out most plausible symbiotic progenitor systems. While we have doubled the sample of normal Type Ia supernovae with deep X-ray limits, more observations are needed to sample the full range of luminosities and subtypes of these explosions, and set statistical constraints on their circumbinary environments.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2022
  7. Abstract SN 2017jgh is a type IIb supernova discovered by Pan-STARRS during the C16/C17 campaigns of the Kepler/K2 mission. Here we present the Kepler/K2 and ground based observations of SN 2017jgh, which captured the shock cooling of the progenitor shock breakout with an unprecedented cadence. This event presents a unique opportunity to investigate the progenitors of stripped envelope supernovae. By fitting analytical models to the SN 2017jgh lightcurve, we find that the progenitor of SN 2017jgh was likely a yellow supergiant with an envelope radius of ∼50 − 290 R⊙, and an envelope mass of ∼0 − 1.7 M⊙. SN 2017jgh likely had a shock velocity of ∼7500 − 10300 km s−1. Additionally, we use the lightcurve of SN 2017jgh to investigate how early observations of the rise contribute to constraints on progenitor models. Fitting just the ground based observations, we find an envelope radius of ∼50 − 330 R⊙, an envelope mass of ∼0.3 − 1.7 M⊙ and a shock velocity of ∼9, 000 − 15, 000 km s−1. Without the rise, the explosion time can not be well constrained which leads to a systematic offset in the velocity parameter and larger uncertainties in the mass and radius. Therefore, it is likely that progenitor property estimates throughmore »these models may have larger systematic uncertainties than previously calculated.« less