R. Chornock

Queen's University Belfast, Béal Feirste, N Ireland, United Kingdom

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Publications (396)952.75 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: In recent years, the advent of wide-field sky surveys which obtain deep multi-band imaging has presented a new path for indirectly characterizing the progenitor populations of core-collapse supernovae (SN): systematic light curve studies. We assemble a set of 76 grizy-band Type IIP SN light curves from Pan-STARRS1 (PS1), obtained over a constant survey program of 4 years and classified using both spectroscopy and machine learning-based photometric techniques. We develop and apply a new Bayesian model for the full multi-band evolution of each light curve in the sample. We find no evidence for the existence of a discontinuous sub-population of fast-declining explosions (historically referred to as "Type IIL" SNe). However, we identify a highly significant continuous relation between the plateau phase decay rate and peak luminosity among our SNe IIP. These results argue in favor of a single predominant explosion parameter, likely determined by initial stellar mass, controlling the most significant observational outcomes of red supergiant explosions. We compare each light curve to physical models from hydrodynamic simulations to estimate progenitor initial masses and other properties of the PS1 Type IIP SN sample. We show that correction of certain systematic discrepancies between modeled and observed SN IIP light curve properties, and an expanded grid of progenitor mass and explosion energy ranges, are needed to enable robust progenitor inferences from multi-band light curve samples of this kind. This work will serve as a pathfinder for photometric studies of core-collapse SNe to be conducted through future wide field transient searches.
    04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We study a sample of 23 Type II Plateau supernovae (SNe II-P), all observed with the same set of instruments. Analysis of their photometric evolution confirms that their typical plateau duration is 100 days with little scatter, showing a tendency to get shorter for more energetic SNe. The rise time from explosion to plateau does not seem to correlate with luminosity. We analyze their spectra, measuring typical ejecta velocities, and confirm that they follow a well behaved power-law decline. We find indications of high-velocity material in the spectra of six of our SNe. We test different dust extinction correction methods by asking the following - does the uniformity of the sample increase after the application of a given method? A reasonably behaved underlying distribution should become tighter after correction. No method we tested made a significant improvement.
    04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present follow-up optical imaging and spectroscopy of one of the light echoes of $\eta$ Carinae's 19th-century Great Eruption discovered by Rest et al. (2012). By obtaining images and spectra at the same light echo position between 2011 and 2014, we follow the evolution of the Great Eruption on a three-year timescale. We find remarkable changes in the photometric and spectroscopic evolution of the echo light. The $i$-band light curve shows a decline of $\sim 0.9$ mag in $\sim 1$ year after the peak observed in early 2011 and a flattening at later times. The spectra show a pure-absorption early G-type stellar spectrum at peak, but a few months after peak the lines of the [Ca II] triplet develop strong P-Cygni profiles and we see the appearance of [Ca II] 7291,7324 doublet in emission. These emission features and their evolution in time resemble the spectra of some Type IIn supernovae and supernova impostors. Most surprisingly, starting $\sim 300$ days after peak brightness, the spectra show strong molecular transitions of CN at $\gtrsim 6800$ \AA. The appearance of these CN features can be explained if the ejecta are strongly Nitrogen enhanced, as it is observed in modern spectroscopic studies of the bipolar Homunculus nebula. Given the spectroscopic evolution of the light echo, velocities of the main features, and detection of strong CN, we are likely seeing ejecta that contributes directly to the Homunculus nebula.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) survey has obtained imaging in 5 bands (grizy_P1) over 10 Medium Deep Survey (MDS) fields covering a total of 70 square degrees. This paper describes the search for apparently hostless supernovae (SNe) within the first year of PS1 MDS data with an aim of discovering new superluminous supernovae (SLSNe). A total of 249 hostless transients were discovered down to a limiting magnitude of M_AB ~ 23.5, of which 75 were classified as Type Ia SNe. There were 58 SNe with complete light curves that are likely core-collapse SNe (CCSNe) or SLSNe and 13 of these have had spectra taken. Of these 13 hostless, non-Type Ia SNe, 9 were SLSNe of Type I at redshifts between 0.5-1.4. Thus one can maximise the discovery rate of Type I SLSNe by concentrating on hostless transients and removing normal SNe Ia. We present data for three new possible SLSNe; PS1-10pm (z = 1.206), PS1-10ahf (z = 1.16) and PS1-11acn (z ~ 0.61), and estimate the rate of SLSNe-I to be between 0.6pm0.3 * 10^-4 and 1.0pm0.3 * 10^-4 of the CCSNe rate within 0.3 <= z <= 1.4 by applying a Monte-Carlo technique. The rate of slowly evolving, SN2007bi-like explosions is estimated as a factor of 10 lower than this range.
    02/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We analyze HST and ground based observations of the luminous Type IIn SN 2010jl from 26 to 1128 days. At maximum the bolometric luminosity was 3x10^{43} erg/s and even at ~ 850 days exceeds 10^{42} erg/s. An emission excess in the NIR, dominating after 400 days, probably originates in dust in the CSM. The observed total radiated energy is at least 6.5x10^{50} ergs. The spectral lines display two distinct components, one broad, due to electron scattering, and one narrow. The broad component is initially symmetric around zero velocity, but becomes blueshifted after ~50 days. We find that dust absorption in the ejecta is unlikely to explain the line shifts, and attribute this instead to radiative acceleration by the SN radiation. From the lines, and the X-ray and dust properties, there is strong evidence for large scale asymmetries in the circumstellar medium. The narrow line component suggests an expansion velocity of ~100 km/s for the CSM. The UV spectrum shows strong low and high ionization lines, while the optical shows a number of narrow coronal lines excited by the X-rays. From the narrow UV lines we find large N/C and N/O ratios, indicative of CNO processing in the progenitor. The luminosity evolution is consistent with a radiative shock in an r^{-2} CSM and indicates a mass loss rate of ~ 0.1 M_O/yr for a 100 km/s wind. The total mass lost is at least ~3 Msun. The mass loss rate, wind velocity, density and CNO enrichment are consistent with the SN expanding into a dense CSM characteristic of that of an LBV progenitor. Even in the last full spectrum at 850 days we do not see any indication of debris processed in a core collapse SN. We attribute this to the extremely dense CSM, which is still opaque to electron scattering. Finally, we discuss the relevance of these UV spectra for detecting Type IIn supernovae in high redshift surveys.
    12/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We present a broadband study of gamma-ray burst (GRB) 091024A within the context of other ultra-long-duration GRBs. An unusually long burst detected by Konus-Wind, Swift, and Fermi, GRB 091024A has prompt emission episodes covering ~1300 s, accompanied by bright and highly structured optical emission captured by various rapid-response facilities, including the 2-m autonomous robotic Faulkes North and Liverpool Telescopes, KAIT, S-LOTIS, and SRO. We also observed the burst with 8- and 10-m class telescopes and determine the redshift to be z = 1.0924 \pm 0.0004. We find no correlation between the optical and gamma-ray peaks and interpret the optical light curve as being of external origin, caused by the reverse and forward shock of a highly magnetized jet (R_B ~ 100-200). Low-level emission is detected throughout the near-background quiescent period between the first two emission episodes of the Konus-Wind data, suggesting continued central-engine activity; we discuss the implications of this ongoing emission and its impact on the afterglow evolution and predictions. We summarize the varied sample of historical GRBs with exceptionally long durations in gamma-rays (>~ 1000 s) and discuss the likelihood of these events being from a separate population; we suggest ultra-long GRBs represent the tail of the duration distribution of the long GRB population.
    The Astrophysical Journal 11/2013; 778(1):54. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present optical spectroscopy and optical/near-IR photometry of 31 host galaxies of hydrogen-poor superluminous supernovae (SLSNe), including 15 events from the Pan-STARRS1 Medium Deep Survey. Our sample spans the redshift range 0.1 < z < 1.6 and is the first comprehensive host galaxy study of this specific subclass of cosmic explosions. Combining the multi-band photometry and emission-line measurements, we determine the luminosities, stellar masses, star formation rates and metallicities. We find that as a whole, the hosts of SLSNe are a low-luminosity ( ~ -17.3 mag), low stellar mass (<M_*> ~ 2 x 10^8 Msun) population, with a high median specific star formation rate ( ~ 2 Gyr^{-1}). The median metallicity of our spectroscopic sample is low, 12 + log(O/H) ~ 8.35 ~ 0.45 Z_sun, although at least one host galaxy has solar metallicity. The host galaxies of H-poor SLSNe are statistically distinct from the hosts of GOODS core-collapse SNe (which cover a similar redshift range), but resemble the host galaxies of long-duration gamma-ray bursts (LGRBs) in terms of stellar mass, SFR, sSFR and metallicity. This result indicates that the environmental causes leading to massive stars forming either SLSNe or LGRBs are similar, and in particular that SLSNe are more effectively formed in low metallicity environments. We speculate that the key ingredient is large core angular momentum, leading to a rapidly spinning magnetar in SLSNe and an accreting black hole in LGRBs.
    10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Super-luminous supernovae that radiate more than 10(44) ergs per second at their peak luminosity have recently been discovered in faint galaxies at redshifts of 0.1-4. Some evolve slowly, resembling models of 'pair-instability' supernovae. Such models involve stars with original masses 140-260 times that of the Sun that now have carbon-oxygen cores of 65-130 solar masses. In these stars, the photons that prevent gravitational collapse are converted to electron-positron pairs, causing rapid contraction and thermonuclear explosions. Many solar masses of (56)Ni are synthesized; this isotope decays to (56)Fe via (56)Co, powering bright light curves. Such massive progenitors are expected to have formed from metal-poor gas in the early Universe. Recently, supernova 2007bi in a galaxy at redshift 0.127 (about 12 billion years after the Big Bang) with a metallicity one-third that of the Sun was observed to look like a fading pair-instability supernova. Here we report observations of two slow-to-fade super-luminous supernovae that show relatively fast rise times and blue colours, which are incompatible with pair-instability models. Their late-time light-curve and spectral similarities to supernova 2007bi call the nature of that event into question. Our early spectra closely resemble typical fast-declining super-luminous supernovae, which are not powered by radioactivity. Modelling our observations with 10-16 solar masses of magnetar-energized ejecta demonstrates the possibility of a common explosion mechanism. The lack of unambiguous nearby pair-instability events suggests that their local rate of occurrence is less than 6 × 10(-6) times that of the core-collapse rate.
    Nature 10/2013; 502(7471):346-9. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present optical photometric and spectroscopic coverage of the superluminous supernova (SLSN) PS1-11ap, discovered with the Pan-STARRS1 Medium Deep Survey at z = 0.524. This intrinsically blue transient rose slowly to reach a peak magnitude of M_u = -21.4 mag and bolometric luminosity of 8 x 10^43 ergs^-1 before settling onto a relatively shallow gradient of decline. The observed decline is significantly slower than those of the superluminous type Ic SNe which have been the focus of much recent attention. Spectroscopic similarities with the lower redshift SN2007bi and a decline rate similar to 56Co decay timescale initially indicated that this transient could be a candidate for a pair instability supernova (PISN) explosion. Overall the transient appears quite similar to SN2007bi and the lower redshift object PTF12dam. The extensive data set, from 30 days before peak to 230 days after, allows a detailed and quantitative comparison with published models of PISN explosions. We find that the PS1-11ap data do not match these model explosion parameters well, supporting the recent claim that these SNe are not pair instability explosions. We show that PS1-11ap has many features in common with the faster declining superluminous Ic supernovae and the lightcurve evolution can also be quantitatively explained by the magnetar spin down model. At a redshift of z = 0.524 the observer frame optical coverage provides comprehensive restframe UV data and allows us to compare it with the superluminous SNe recently found at high redshifts between z = 2-4. While these high-z explosions are still plausible PISN candidates, they match the photometric evolution of PS1-11ap and hence could be counterparts to this lower redshift transient.
    10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We present griz light curves of 146 spectroscopically confirmed Type Ia Supernovae (0.03<z<0.65) discovered during the first 1.5 years of the Pan-STARRS1 Medium Deep Survey. The Pan-STARRS1 natural photometric system is determined by a combination of on-site measurements of the instrument response function and observations of spectrophotometric standard stars. We have investigated spatial and time variations in the photometry, and we find that the systematic uncertainties in the photometric system are currently 1.2% without accounting for the uncertainty in the HST Calspec definition of the AB system. We discuss our efforts to minimize the systematic uncertainties in the photometry. A Hubble diagram is constructed with a subset of 112 SNe Ia (out of the 146) that pass our light curve quality cuts. The cosmological fit to 313 SNe Ia (112 PS1 SNe Ia + 201 low-z SNe Ia), using only SNe and assuming a constant dark energy equation of state and flatness, yields w = -1.015^{+0.319}_{-0.201}(Stat)+{0.164}_{-0.122}(Sys). When combined with BAO+CMB(Planck)+H0, the analysis yields \Omega_M = 0.277^{+0.010}_{-0.012} and w = -1.186^{+0.076}_{-0.065} including all identified systematics, as spelled out in the companion paper by Scolnic et al. (2013a). The value of w is inconsistent with the cosmological constant value of -1 at the 2.4 sigma level. This tension has been seen in other high-z SN surveys and endures after removing either the BAO or the H0 constraint. If we include WMAP9 CMB constraints instead of those from Planck, we find w = -1.142^{+0.076}_{-0.087}, which diminishes the discord to <2 sigma. We cannot conclude whether the tension with flat CDM is a feature of dark energy, new physics, or a combination of chance and systematic errors. The full Pan-STARRS1 supernova sample will be 3 times as large as this initial sample, which should provide more conclusive results.
    10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We probe the systematic uncertainties from 112 Type Ia supernovae (SNIa) in the Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) sample along with 201 SN Ia from a combination of low-redshift surveys. The companion paper by Rest et al. (2013) describes the photometric measurements and cosmological inferences from the PS1 sample. The largest systematic uncertainty stems from the photometric calibration of the PS1 and low-z samples. We increase the sample of observed Calspec standards from 7 to 10 used to define the PS1 calibration system. The PS1 and SDSS-II calibration systems are compared and discrepancies up to ~0.02 mag are recovered. We find uncertainties in the proper way to treat intrinsic colors and reddening produce differences in the recovered value of w up to 3%. We estimate masses of host galaxies of PS1 supernovae and detect an insignificant difference in distance residuals of the full sample of 0.040\pm0.031 mag for host galaxies with high and low masses. Assuming flatness in our analysis of only SNe measurements, we find w = -1.015^{+0.319}_{-0.201} (Stat) ^{+0.164}_{-0.122) (Sys). With additional constraints from BAO, CMB(Planck) and H0 measurements, we find w = -1.186^{+0.076}_{-0.065} and \Omega_M= 0.277^{+0.010}_{-0.012} (statistical and systematic errors added in quadrature). One of the largest total systematic uncertainties when combining measurements from different cosmological probes is the choice of CMB data to include in the analysis. Using WMAP9 data instead of Planck, we see a shift of \Delta w = +0.044.
    10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The new generation of wide-field optical time-domain surveys is providing an opportunity to discover and decipher new classes of astronomical transient phenomena. One of the most unexpected results from Pan-STARRS and other time-domain surveys is the discovery of superluminous supernovae (SLSNe), with bolometric luminosities up to 100 times higher than normal core-collapse and Type Ia supernovae (SNe), and with spectra that do not match the known SN classes. These SLSNe represent a new challenge to our understanding of the deaths of massive stars, the standard core-collapse picture, and the mechanism for powering optical emission in SNe. Progress in our understanding of these mysterious explosions requires detailed studies of their light curves and spectra (available from our Pan-STARRS data and follow-up), as well as an understanding of their galactic environments - the focus of this Spitzer proposal. We propose 3.6 micron imaging of a complete sample of 25 SLSN host galaxies at z~0.1-1.6, with the goal of measuring stellar masses and dust extinction. Combined with our existing and on-going ground-based and HST follow-up observations (multi-band optical photometry and optical spectroscopy), the Spitzer data will allow us to fully characterize the environments of SLSNe over a wide range of redshifts, thus beginning to address one of the key new mysteries in time-domain astrophysics. The Spitzer data will form a central component of the PI's PhD thesis.
    Spitzer Proposal. 10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We present radio, optical/NIR, and X-ray observations of the afterglow of the short-duration 130603B, and uncover a break in the radio and optical bands at 0.5 d after the burst, best explained as a jet break with an inferred jet opening angle of 4-8 deg. GRB 130603B is only the third short GRB with a radio afterglow detection to date, and the first time that a jet break is evident in the radio band. We model the temporal evolution of the spectral energy distribution to determine the burst explosion properties and find an isotropic-equivalent kinetic energy of (0.6-1.7) x 10^51 erg and a circumburst density of 5 x 10^-3-30 cm^-3. From the inferred opening angle of GRB 130603B, we calculate beaming-corrected energies of Egamma (0.5-2) x 10^49 erg and EK (0.1-1.6) x 10^49 erg. Along with previous measurements and lower limits we find a median short GRB opening angle of 10 deg. Using the all-sky observed rate of 10 Gpc^-3 yr^-1, this implies a true short GRB rate of 20 yr^-1 within 200 Mpc, the Advanced LIGO/VIRGO sensitivity range for neutron star binary mergers. Finally, we uncover evidence for significant excess emission in the X-ray afterglow of GRB 130603B at >1 d and conclude that the additional energy component could be due to fall-back accretion or spin-down energy from a magnetar formed following the merger.
    The Astrophysical Journal 09/2013; 780(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and ground-based optical and near-infrared observations of SN 2005hk and SN 2008A, typical members of the Type Iax class of supernovae (SNe). These objects are peculiar cousins of normal Type Ia SNe, with SN 2002cx as the prototype. Here we focus on late-time observations, where these objects deviate most dramatically from normal SNe Ia. Instead of the dominant nebular emission lines that are observed in normal SNe Ia at late phases (and indeed, in SNe of all other types), spectra of SNe 2005hk and 2008A show lines of Fe II, Ca II, and Fe I more than a year past maximum light, along with narrow [Fe II] and [Ca II] emission. We use spectral features to constrain the temperature and density of the ejecta, and find high densities at late times, with n_e >~ 10^9 cm^-3. Such high densities should yield enhanced cooling of the ejecta, making these objects good candidates to observe the expected "infrared catastrophe," a generic feature of SN Ia models. However, our HST photometry of SN 2008A does not match the predictions of an infrared catastrophe. Moreover, our HST observations rule out a "pure deflagration" model for these peculiar SNe, showing no evidence for unburned material at late times. We derive an upper limit of 0.14 solar masses of low-density oxygen in SN 2008A nearly 600 days after maximum light, at odds with the pure deflagration prediction. We argue that the observed late-time line velocities (shifts and widths), of order ~500 km/s, imply the explosion did not fully disrupt the white dwarf. Failed deflagration explosion models, leaving behind a bound remnant, can match some of the observed properties of SNe Iax, but no published model is consistent with all of our observations of SNe 2005hk and 2008A.
    09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the Pan-STARRS1 discovery of the long-lived and blue transient PS1-11af, which was also detected by GALEX with coordinated observations in the near-ultraviolet (NUV) band. PS1-11af is associated with the nucleus of an early-type galaxy at redshift z=0.4046 that exhibits no evidence for star formation or AGN activity. Four epochs of spectroscopy reveal a pair of transient broad absorption features in the UV on otherwise featureless spectra. Despite the superficial similarity of these features to P-Cygni absorptions of supernovae (SNe), we conclude that PS1-11af is not consistent with the properties of known types of SNe. Blackbody fits to the spectral energy distribution are inconsistent with the cooling, expanding ejecta of a SN, and the velocities of the absorption features are too high to represent material in homologous expansion near a SN photosphere. However, the constant blue colors and slow evolution of the luminosity are similar to previous optically-selected tidal disruption events (TDEs). The shape of the optical light curve is consistent with models for TDEs, but the minimum accreted mass necessary to power the observed luminosity is only ~0.002M_sun, which points to a partial disruption model. A full disruption model predicts higher bolometric luminosities, which would require most of the radiation to be emitted in a separate component at high energies where we lack observations. In addition, the observed temperature is lower than that predicted by pure accretion disk models for TDEs and requires reprocessing to a constant, lower temperature. Three deep non-detections in the radio with the VLA over the first two years after the event set strict limits on the production of any relativistic outflow comparable to Swift J1644+57, even if off-axis.
    09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: [Abridged] We present a search for fast optical transients (~0.5 hr-1 day) using repeated observations of the Pan-STARRS1 Medium-Deep Survey (PS1/MDS) fields. Our search takes advantage of the consecutive g/r-band observations (16.5 min in each filter), by requiring detections in both bands, with non-detections on preceding and subsequent nights. We identify 19 transients brighter than 22.5 AB mag (S/N>10). Of these, 11 events exhibit quiescent counterparts in the deep PS1/MDS templates that we identify as M4-M9 dwarfs. The remaining 8 transients exhibit a range of properties indicative of main-belt asteroids near the stationary point of their orbits. With identifications for all 19 transients, we place an upper limit of R_FOT(0.5hr)<0.12 deg^-2 d^-1 (95% confidence level) on the sky-projected rate of extragalactic fast transients at <22.5 mag, a factor of 30-50 times lower than previous limits; the limit for a timescale of ~day is R_FOT<2.4e-3 deg^-2 d^-1. To convert these sky-projected rates to volumetric rates, we explore the expected peak luminosities of fast optical transients powered by various mechanisms, and find that non-relativistic events are limited to M~-10 mag (M~-14 mag) for a timescale of ~0.5 hr (~day), while relativistic sources (e.g., GRBs, magnetar-powered transients) can reach much larger luminosities. The resulting volumetric rates are <13 (M~-10 mag), <0.05 (M~-14 mag) and <1e-6 Mpc^-3 yr^-1 (M~-24 mag), significantly above the nova, supernova, and GRB rates, respectively, indicating that much larger surveys are required to provide meaningful constraints. Motivated by the results of our search we discuss strategies for identifying fast optical transients in the LSST main survey, and reach the optimistic conclusion that the veil of foreground contaminants can be lifted with the survey data, without the need for expensive follow-up observations.
    The Astrophysical Journal 07/2013; 779(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Over the past 20 years reverberation mapping has proved one of the most successful techniques for studying the local (<1 pc) environment of supermassive black holes that drive active galactic nuclei. Key successes of reverberation mapping have been direct black hole mass estimates, the radius-luminosity relation for the Hβ line and the calibration of single-epoch mass estimators commonly employed up to z ˜ 7. However, observing constraints mean that few studies have been successful at z > 0.1, or for the more-luminous quasars that make up the majority of current spectroscopic samples, or for rest-frame ultraviolet emission lines available in optical spectra of z > 0.5 objects. Previously, we described a technique for stacking cross-correlations to obtain reverberation mapping results at high z. Here, we present the first results from a campaign designed for this purpose. We construct stacked cross-correlation functions for the C IV and Mg II lines and find a clear peak in both. We find that the peak in the Mg II correlation is at longer lags than C IV consistent with previous results at low redshift. For the C IV sample, we are able to bin by luminosity and find evidence for increasing lags for more-luminous objects. This C IV radius-luminosity relation is consistent with previous studies but with a fraction of the observational cost.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 07/2013; 434(1):L16-L20. · 5.52 Impact Factor
  • E. Berger, W. Fong, R. Chornock
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    ABSTRACT: We present ground-based optical and Hubble Space Telescope optical and near-IR observations of the short-hard GRB130603B at z=0.356, which demonstrate the presence of excess near-IR emission matching the expected brightness and color of an r-process powered transient (a "kilonova"). The early afterglow fades rapidly with alpha<-2.6 at t~8-32 hr post-burst and has a spectral index of beta=-1.5 (F_nu t^alpha*nu^beta), leading to an expected near-IR brightness at the time of the first HST observation of m(F160W)>29.3 AB mag. Instead, the detected source has m(F160W)=25.8+/-0.2 AB mag, corresponding to a rest-frame absolute magnitude of M(J)=-15.2 mag. The upper limit in the HST optical observations is m(F606W)>27.7 AB mag (3-sigma), indicating an unusually red color of V-H>1.9 mag. Comparing the observed near-IR luminosity to theoretical models of kilonovae produced by ejecta from the merger of an NS-NS or NS-BH binary, we infer an ejecta mass of M_ej~0.03-0.08 Msun for v_ej=0.1-0.3c. The inferred mass matches the expectations from numerical merger simulations. The presence of a kilonova provides the strongest evidence to date that short GRBs are produced by compact object mergers, and provides initial insight on the ejected mass and the primary role that compact object merger may play in the r-process. Equally important, it demonstrates that gravitational wave sources detected by Advanced LIGO/Virgo will be accompanied by optical/near-IR counterparts with unusually red colors, detectable by existing and upcoming large wide-field facilities (e.g., Pan-STARRS, DECam, Subaru, LSST).
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 06/2013; 774(2). · 6.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present high signal-to-noise ratio Gemini and MMT spectroscopy of the optical afterglow of the gamma-ray burst (GRB) 130606A at redshift z=5.913, discovered by Swift. This is the first high-redshift GRB afterglow to have spectra of comparable quality to those of z~6 quasars. The data exhibit a smooth continuum at near-infrared wavelengths that is sharply cut off blueward of 8410 Angs due to absorption from Ly-alpha at redshift z~5.91, with some flux transmitted through the Ly-alpha forest between 7000-7800 Angs. We use column densities inferred from metal absorption lines to constrain the metallicity of the host galaxy between a lower limit of [Si/H]>-1.7 and an upper limit of [S/H]<-0.5 set by the non-detection of S II absorption. We demonstrate consistency between the dramatic evolution in the transmission fraction of Ly-alpha seen in this spectrum over the redshift range z=4.9 to 5.85 with that previously measured from observations of high-redshift quasars. There is an extended redshift interval of Delta-z=0.12 in the Ly-alpha forest at z=5.77 with no detected transmission, leading to a 3-sigma upper limit on the mean Ly-alpha transmission fraction of <0.2% (or tau_eff(Ly-alpha) > 6.4). This is comparable to the lowest-redshift Gunn-Peterson troughs found in quasar spectra. We set a 2-sigma upper limit of 0.11 on the neutral fraction of the IGM at the redshift of the GRB from the lack of a Ly-alpha red damping wing, assuming a model with a constant neutral density. Some Ly-beta and Ly-gamma transmission is detected in this redshift window, indicating that it is not completely opaque, and hence that the IGM is nonetheless mostly ionized at these redshifts. GRB 130606A thus for the first time realizes the promise of GRBs as probes of the first galaxies and cosmic reionization.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2013; 774(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Owing to their utility for measurements of cosmic acceleration, Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are perhaps the best-studied class of SNe, yet the progenitor systems of these explosions largely remain a mystery. A rare subclass of SNe Ia shows evidence of strong interaction with their circumstellar medium (CSM), and in particular, a hydrogen-rich CSM; we refer to them as SNe Ia-CSM. In the first systematic search for such systems, we have identified 16 SNe Ia-CSM, and here we present new spectra of 13 of them. Six SNe Ia-CSM have been well studied previously, three were previously known but are analyzed in depth for the first time here, and seven are new discoveries from the Palomar Transient Factory. The spectra of all SNe Ia-CSM are dominated by Hα emission (with widths of ~2000 km s–1) and exhibit large Hα/Hβ intensity ratios (perhaps due to collisional excitation of hydrogen via the SN ejecta overtaking slower-moving CSM shells); moreover, they have an almost complete lack of He I emission. They also show possible evidence of dust formation through a decrease in the red wing of Hα 75-100 days past maximum brightness, and nearly all SNe Ia-CSM exhibit strong Na I D absorption from the host galaxy. The absolute magnitudes (uncorrected for host-galaxy extinction) of SNe Ia-CSM are found to be –21.3 mag ≤ MR ≤ –19 mag, and they also seem to show ultraviolet emission at early times and strong infrared emission at late times (but no detected radio or X-ray emission). Finally, the host galaxies of SNe Ia-CSM are all late-type spirals similar to the Milky Way, or dwarf irregulars like the Large Magellanic Cloud, which implies that these objects come from a relatively young stellar population. This work represents the most detailed analysis of the SN Ia-CSM class to date.
    The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 06/2013; 207(1):3. · 16.24 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
587 Downloads
952.75 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • Queen's University Belfast
      • Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC)
      Béal Feirste, N Ireland, United Kingdom
  • 2010–2013
    • Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
      • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2000–2013
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • • Department of Astronomy
      • • Theoretical Astrophysics Center
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 2012
    • Space Telescope Science Institute
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
    • Johns Hopkins University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Baltimore, MD, United States
    • Harvard University
      • Department of Astronomy
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2011
    • Honolulu University
      Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
  • 2008
    • Spanish National Research Council
      Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 2006
    • Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
      San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain
  • 2002
    • Tel Aviv University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel