Jeff Zolkower

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, United States

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Publications (15)91.05 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: HD 8673 hosts a massive exoplanet in a highly eccentric orbit (e=0.723). Based on two epochs of speckle interferometry a previous publication identi?ed a candidate stellar companion. We observed HD 8673 multiple times with the 10 m Keck II telescope, the 5 m Hale telescope, the 3.63 m AEOS telescope and the 1.5m Palomar telescope in a variety of ?lters with the aim of con?rming and characterizing the stellar companion. We did not detect the candidate companion, which we now conclude was a false detection, but we did detect a fainter companion. We collected astrometry and photometry of the companion on six epochs in a variety of ?lters. The measured di?erential photometry enabled us to determine that the companion is an early M dwarf with a mass estimate of 0.33-0.45 M?. The companion has a projected separation of 10 AU, which is one of the smallest projected separations of an exoplanet host binary system. Based on the limited astrometry collected, we are able to constrain the orbit of the stellar companion to a semi-major axis of 35{60 AU, an eccentricity ? 0.5 and an inclination of 75{85?. The stellar companion has likely strongly in uenced the orbit of the exoplanet and quite possibly explains its high eccentricity.
    The Astronomical Journal 02/2015; 149(4). DOI:10.1088/0004-6256/149/4/144 · 4.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Robo-AO, a fully autonomous, laser guide star adaptive optics and science system, is being commissioned at Palomar Observatory's 60-inch telescope. Here we discuss the instrument, scientific goals and results of initial on-sky operation.
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    ABSTRACT: Outputs from new software program Aperture Photometry Tool (APT) are compared with similar outputs from SExtractor for sources extracted from R-band optical images acquired by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF), infrared mosaics constructed from Spitzer Space Telescope images, and a processed visible/near-infrared image from the Hubble Legacy Archive (HLA). Two large samples from the PTF images are studied, each containing around 3 x 10(3) sources from noncrowded fields. The median values of source-intensity relative percentage differences between the two software programs, computed separately for two PTF samples, are +0.13% and +0.17%, with corresponding statistical dispersions of 1.43% and 1.84%, respectively. For the Spitzer mosaics, a similar large sample of extracted sources for each of channels 1-4 of Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) are analyzed with two different sky annulus sizes, and we find that the median and modal values of source-intensity relative percentage differences between the two software programs are between -0.5% and +2.0%, and the corresponding statistical dispersions range from 1.4 to 6.7%, depending on the Spitzer IRAC channel and sky annulus. The results for the HLA image are mixed, as might be expected for a moderately crowded field. The comparisons for the three different kinds of images show that there is generally excellent agreement between APT and SExtractor. Differences in source-intensity uncertainty estimates for the PTF images amount to less than 3% for the PTF sources, and these are potentially caused by SExtractor's omission of the sky background uncertainty term in the formula for source-intensity uncertainty, as well as differing methods of sky background estimation.
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 07/2012; 124(917):764-781. DOI:10.1086/666507 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) provides multiple epoch imaging for a large fraction of the celestial sphere. Here, we describe the photometric calibration of the PTF data products that allows the PTF magnitudes to be related to other magnitude systems. The calibration process utilizes Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) ∼ 16 mag point-source objects as photometric standards. During photometric conditions, this allows us to solve for the extinction coefficients and color terms and to estimate the camera illumination correction. This also enables the calibration of fields that are outside the SDSS footprint. We test the precision and repeatability of the PTF photometric calibration. Given that PTF is observing in a single filter each night, we define a PTF calibrated magnitude system for the band and band. We show that, in this system, ≈59% (47%) of the photometrically calibrated PTF -band ( -band) data achieve a photometric precision of 0.02–0.04 mag and have color terms and extinction coefficients that are close to their average values. Given the objects’ color, the PTF magnitude system can be converted to other systems. Moreover, a night-by-night comparison of the calibrated magnitudes of individual stars observed on multiple nights shows that they are consistent to a level of ≈0.02 mag . Most of the data that were taken under nonphotometric conditions can be calibrated relative to other epochs of the same sky footprint obtained during photometric conditions. We provide a concise guide describing how to use the PTF photometric-calibration data products, as well as the transformations between the PTF magnitude system and the SDSS and Johnson-Cousins systems.
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 01/2012; 124(911):62-73. DOI:10.1086/664065 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Supernovae are stellar explosions driven by gravitational or thermonuclear energy that is observed as electromagnetic radiation emitted over weeks or more. In all known supernovae, this radiation comes from internal energy deposited in the outflowing ejecta by one or more of the following processes: radioactive decay of freshly synthesized elements (typically 56Ni), the explosion shock in the envelope of a supergiant star, and interaction between the debris and slowly moving, hydrogen-rich circumstellar material. Here we report observations of a class of luminous supernovae whose properties cannot be explained by any of these processes. The class includes four new supernovae that we have discovered and two previously unexplained events (SN 2005ap and SCP 06F6) that we can now identify as members of the same class. (1 data file).
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    ABSTRACT: Supernovae are stellar explosions driven by gravitational or thermonuclear energy that is observed as electromagnetic radiation emitted over weeks or more. In all known supernovae, this radiation comes from internal energy deposited in the outflowing ejecta by one or more of the following processes: radioactive decay of freshly synthesized elements (typically (56)Ni), the explosion shock in the envelope of a supergiant star, and interaction between the debris and slowly moving, hydrogen-rich circumstellar material. Here we report observations of a class of luminous supernovae whose properties cannot be explained by any of these processes. The class includes four new supernovae that we have discovered and two previously unexplained events (SN 2005ap and SCP 06F6) that we can now identify as members of the same class. These supernovae are all about ten times brighter than most type Ia supernova, do not show any trace of hydrogen, emit significant ultraviolet flux for extended periods of time and have late-time decay rates that are inconsistent with radioactivity. Our data require that the observed radiation be emitted by hydrogen-free material distributed over a large radius (∼10(15) centimetres) and expanding at high speeds (>10(4) kilometres per second). These long-lived, ultraviolet-luminous events can be observed out to redshifts z > 4.
    Nature 06/2011; 474(7352):487-9. DOI:10.1038/nature10095 · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) is systematically charting the optical transient and variable sky. A primary science driver of PTF is building a complete inventory of transients in the local universe (distance less than 200 Mpc). Here, we report the discovery of PTF 10fqs, a transient in the luminosity "gap" between novae and supernovae. Located on a spiral arm of Messier 99, PTF 10fqs has a peak luminosity of Mr = –12.3, red color (g – r = 1.0), and is slowly evolving (decayed by 1 mag in 68 days). It has a spectrum dominated by intermediate-width Hα (930 km s–1) and narrow calcium emission lines. The explosion signature (the light curve and spectra) is overall similar to that of M85 OT2006-1, SN 2008S, and NGC 300 OT. The origin of these events is shrouded in mystery and controversy (and in some cases, in dust). PTF 10fqs shows some evidence of a broad feature (around 8600 Å) that may suggest very large velocities (10,000 km s–1) in this explosion. Ongoing surveys can be expected to find a few such events per year. Sensitive spectroscopy, infrared monitoring, and statistics (e.g., disk versus bulge) will eventually make it possible for astronomers to unravel the nature of these mysterious explosions.
    The Astrophysical Journal 03/2011; 730(2):134. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/730/2/134 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Type-IIn supernovae (SNe IIn), which are characterized by strong interaction of their ejecta with the surrounding circumstellar matter (CSM), provide a unique opportunity to study the mass-loss history of massive stars shortly before their explosive death. We present the discovery and follow-up observations of an SN IIn, PTF 09uj, detected by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF). Serendipitous observations by Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) at ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths detected the rise of the SN light curve prior to the PTF discovery. The UV light curve of the SN rose fast, with a timescale of a few days, to a UV absolute AB magnitude of about –19.5. Modeling our observations, we suggest that the fast rise of the UV light curve is due to the breakout of the SN shock through the dense CSM (n 1010 cm–3). Furthermore, we find that prior to the explosion the progenitor went through a phase of high mass-loss rate (~0.1 M ☉ yr–1) that lasted for a few years. The decay rate of this SN was fast relative to that of other SNe IIn.
    The Astrophysical Journal 11/2010; 724(2):1396. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/724/2/1396 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: During a synoptic survey of the North American Nebula region, the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) detected an optical outburst (dubbed PTF10nvg) associated with the previously unstudied flat or rising spectrum infrared source IRAS 20496+4354. The PTF R-band light curve reveals that PTF10nvg brightened by more than 5 mag during the current outburst, rising to a peak magnitude of R~13.5 in 2010 Sep. Follow-up observations indicate PTF10nvg has undergone a similar ~5 mag brightening in the K band, and possesses a rich emission-line spectrum, including numerous lines commonly assumed to trace mass accretion and outflows. Many of these lines are blueshifted by ~175 km/s from the North American Nebula's rest velocity, suggesting that PTF10nvg is driving an outflow. Optical spectra of PTF10nvg show several TiO/VO bandheads fully in emission, indicating the presence of an unusual amount of dense (> 10^10 cm^-3), warm (1500-4000 K) circumstellar material. Near-infrared spectra of PTF10nvg appear quite similar to a spectrum of McNeil's Nebula/V1647 Ori, a young star which has undergone several brightenings in recent decades, and 06297+1021W, a Class I protostar with a similarly rich near--infrared emission line spectrum. While further monitoring is required to fully understand this event, we conclude that the brightening of PTF10nvg is indicative of enhanced accretion and outflow in this Class-I-type protostellar object, similar to the behavior of V1647 Ori in 2004-2005. Comment: Accepted to the Astronomical Journal; 21 pages, 11 figures, 6 tables in emulateapj format; v2 fixes typo in abstract; v3 updates status to accepted, adjusts affiliations, adds acknowledgment
    The Astronomical Journal 11/2010; DOI:10.1088/0004-6256/141/2/40 · 4.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present pre- and post-outburst observations of the new FU Orionis-like young stellar object PTF 10qpf (also known as LkHa 188-G4 and HBC 722). Prior to this outburst, LkHa 188-G4 was classified as a classical T Tauri star on the basis of its optical emission-line spectrum superposed on a K8-type photosphere, and its photometric variability. The mid-infrared spectral index of LkHa 188-G4 indicates a Class II-type object. LkHa 188-G4 exhibited a steady rise by ~1 mag over ~11 months starting in Aug. 2009, before a subsequent more abrupt rise of > 3 mag on a time scale of ~2 months. Observations taken during the eruption exhibit the defining characteristics of FU Orionis variables: (i) an increase in brightness by > 4 mag, (ii) a bright optical/near-infrared reflection nebula appeared, (iii) optical spectra are consistent with a G supergiant and dominated by absorption lines, the only exception being Halpha which is characterized by a P Cygni profile, (iv) near-infrared spectra resemble those of late K--M giants/supergiants with enhanced absorption seen in the molecular bands of CO and H_2O, and (v) outflow signatures in H and He are seen in the form of blueshifted absorption profiles. LkHa 188-G4 is the first member of the FU Orionis-like class with a well-sampled optical to mid-infrared spectral energy distribution in the pre-outburst phase. The association of the PTF 10qpf outburst with the previously identified classical T Tauri star LkHa 188-G4 (HBC 722) provides strong evidence that FU Orionis-like eruptions represent periods of enhanced disk accretion and outflow, likely triggered by instabilities in the disk. The early identification of PTF 10qpf as an FU Orionis-like variable will enable detailed photometric and spectroscopic observations during its post-outburst evolution for comparison with other known outbursting objects.
    The Astrophysical Journal 11/2010; 730(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/730/2/80 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the discovery, photometric and spectroscopic follow-up observations of SN 2010X (PTF 10bhp). This supernova decays exponentially with tau_d=5 days, and rivals the current recordholder in speed, SN 2002bj. SN 2010X peaks at M_r=-17mag and has mean velocities of 10,000 km/s. Our light curve modeling suggests a radioactivity powered event and an ejecta mass of 0.16 Msun. If powered by Nickel, we show that the Nickel mass must be very small (0.02 Msun) and that the supernova quickly becomes optically thin to gamma-rays. Our spectral modeling suggests that SN 2010X and SN 2002bj have similar chemical compositions and that one of Aluminum or Helium is present. If Aluminum is present, we speculate that this may be an accretion induced collapse of an O-Ne-Mg white dwarf. If Helium is present, all observables of SN 2010X are consistent with being a thermonuclear Helium shell detonation on a white dwarf, a ".Ia" explosion. With the 1-day dynamic-cadence experiment on the Palomar Transient Factory, we expect to annually discover a few such events. Comment: 7 pages, 5 figures, 1 table; submitted to ApJL
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 09/2010; 723(1). DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/723/1/L98 · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The PTF (ATEL #1964; http://www.astro.caltech.edu/ptf/) reports the discovery of a new supernova, PTF10qts. The supernova was discovered and classified by Oarical, an autonomous software framework of the PTF collaboration, on Aug 8 UT at RA(J2000) = 16:41:37.60 and DEC(J2000) = +28:58:21.1 at a magnitude of 19.4 in R-band (calibrated with respect to the USNO-B catalog) in an anonymous host galaxy.
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    ABSTRACT: The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) is a new fully-automated, wide-field survey conducting a systematic exploration of the optical transient sky. The transient survey is performed using a new 8.1 square degree, 101 megapixel camera installed on the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory. The PTF Camera achieved first light at the end of 2008, completed commissioning in July 2009, and is now in routine science operations. The camera is based on the CFH12K camera, and was extensively modified for use on the 48-inch telescope. A field-flattening curved window was installed, the cooling system was re-engineered and upgraded to closed-cycle, custom shutter and filter exchanger mechanisms were added, new custom control software was written, and many other modifications were made. We here describe the performance of these new systems during the first year of Palomar Transient Factory operations, including a detailed and long term on-sky performance characterization. We also describe lessons learned during the construction and commissioning of the upgraded camera, the photometric and astrometric precision currently achieved with the PTF camera, and briefly summarize the first supernova results from the PTF survey.
    Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering 07/2010; DOI:10.1117/12.857400 · 0.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We use the first compilation of 72 core-collapse supernovae (SNe) from the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) to study their observed subtype distribution in dwarf galaxies compared to giant galaxies. Our sample is the largest single-survey, untargeted, spectroscopically classified, homogeneous collection of core-collapse events ever assembled, spanning a wide host-galaxy luminosity range (down to M_r ~ -14 mag) and including a substantial fraction (>20%) of dwarf (M_r >= -18 mag) hosts. We find more core-collapse SNe in dwarf galaxies than expected and several interesting trends emerge. We use detailed subclassifications of stripped-envelope core-collapse SNe and find that all Type I core-collapse events occurring in dwarf galaxies are either SNe Ib or broad-lined SNe Ic (SNe Ic-BL), while "normal" SNe Ic dominate in giant galaxies. We also see a significant excess of SNe IIb in dwarf hosts. We hypothesize that in lower metallicity hosts, metallicity-driven mass loss is reduced, allowing massive stars that would have appeared as "normal" SNe Ic in metal-rich galaxies to retain some He and H, exploding as Ib/IIb events. At the same time, another mechanism allows some stars to undergo extensive stripping and explode as SNe Ic-BL (and presumably also as long-duration gamma-ray bursts). Our results are still limited by small-number statistics, and our measurements of the observed N(Ib/c)/N(II) number ratio in dwarf and giant hosts (0.25_{-0.15}^{+0.3} and 0.23_{-0.08}^{+0.11}, respectively; 1 sigma uncertainties) are consistent with previous studies and theoretical predictions. As additional PTF data accumulate, more robust statistical analyses will be possible, allowing the evolution of massive stars to be probed via the dwarf-galaxy SN population. Comment: 22 pages, 4 figures, ApJ accepted
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2010; 721(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/721/1/777 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) is a fully-automated, wide-field survey aimed at a systematic exploration of the optical transient sky. The transient survey is performed using a new 8.1 square degree camera installed on the 48 inch Samuel Oschin telescope at Palomar Observatory; colors and light curves for detected transients are obtained with the automated Palomar 60 inch telescope. PTF uses 80% of the 1.2 m and 50% of the 1.5 m telescope time. With an exposure of 60 s the survey reaches a depth of m_(g′) ≈ 21.3 and m_R ≈ 20.6 (5σ, median seeing). Four major experiments are planned for the five-year project: (1) a 5 day cadence supernova search; (2) a rapid transient search with cadences between 90 s and 1 day; (3) a search for eclipsing binaries and transiting planets in Orion; and (4) a 3π sr deep H-alpha survey. PTF provides automatic, real-time transient classification and follow-up, as well as a database including every source detected in each frame. This paper summarizes the PTF project, including several months of on-sky performance tests of the new survey camera, the observing plans, and the data reduction strategy. We conclude by detailing the first 51 PTF optical transient detections, found in commissioning data.
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 06/2009; 121(886). DOI:10.1086/648598 · 3.23 Impact Factor