John F. Beacom

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, United States

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Publications (187)636.15 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery of ASASSN-15lh (SN 2015L), which we interpret as the most luminous supernova yet found. At redshift z = 0.2326, ASASSN-15lh reached an absolute magnitude of M_{u,AB} = -23.5+/-0.1 and bolometric luminosity L_bol = (2.2+/-0.2)x 10^45 ergs s^-1, which is more than twice as luminous as any previously known supernova. It has several major features characteristic of the hydrogen-poor super-luminous supernovae (SLSNe-I), whose energy sources and progenitors are currently poorly understood. In contrast to most previously known SLSNe-I that reside in star-forming dwarf galaxies, ASASSN-15lh appears to be hosted by a luminous galaxy (M_K ~ -25.5) with little star formation. In the 4 months since first detection, ASASSN-15lh radiated (1.1+/- 0.2)x10^52 ergs, challenging the magnetar model for its engine.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Science
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    ABSTRACT: This document presents the Conceptual Design Report (CDR) put forward by an international neutrino community to pursue the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment at the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF/DUNE), a groundbreaking science experiment for long-baseline neutrino oscillation studies and for neutrino astrophysics and nucleon decay searches. The DUNE far detector will be a very large modular liquid argon time-projection chamber (LArTPC) located deep underground, coupled to the LBNF multi-megawatt wide-band neutrino beam. DUNE will also have a high-resolution and high-precision near detector.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We present the results of the spectroscopic and photometric monitoring campaign of ASASSN-15ed. The transient was discovered quite young by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) survey. Amateur astronomers allowed us to sample the photometric SN evolution around maximum light, which we estimate to have occurred on JD = 2457087.4 ± 0.6 in the r band. Its apparent r-band magnitude at maximum was r = 16.91 ± 0.10, providing an absolute magnitude Mr ≈ −20.04 ± 0.20, which is slightly more luminous than the typical magnitudes estimated for Type Ibn SNe. The post-peak evolution was well monitored, and the decline rate (being in most bands around 0.1 mag d−1 during the first 25 d after maximum) is marginally slower than the average decline rates of SNe Ibn during the same time interval. The object was initially classified as a Type Ibn SN because early-time spectra were characterized by a blue continuum with superimposed narrow P-Cygni lines of He i, suggesting the presence of a slowly moving (1200–1500 km s−1), He-rich circumstellar medium. Later on, broad P-Cygni He i lines became prominent. The inferred velocities, as measured from the minimum of the broad absorption components, were between 6000 and 7000 km s−1. As we attribute these broad features to the SN ejecta, this is the first time we have observed the transition of a Type Ibn SN to a Type Ib SN.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: The solar disk is a bright gamma-ray source. Surprisingly, its flux is about one order of magnitude higher than predicted. As a first step toward understanding the physical origin of this discrepancy, we perform a new analysis in 1-100 GeV using 6 years of public Fermi-LAT data. Compared to the previous analysis by the Fermi Collaboration, who analyzed 1.5 years of data and detected the solar disk in 0.1-10 GeV, we find two new and significant results: 1. In the 1-10 GeV flux (detected at $>5\sigma$), we discover a significant time variation that anticorrelates with solar activity. 2. We detect gamma rays in 10- 30 GeV at $>5\sigma$, and in 30- 100 GeV at $> 2\sigma$. The time variation strongly indicates that solar-disk gamma rays are induced by cosmic rays and that solar atmospheric magnetic fields play an important role. Our results provide essential clues for understanding the underlying gamma-ray production processes, which may allow new probes of solar atmospheric magnetic fields, cosmic rays in the solar system, and possible new physics. Finally, we show that the Sun is a promising new target for ground-based TeV gamma-ray telescopes such as HAWC and LHAASO.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015
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    Shirley Weishi Li · John F. Beacom
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    ABSTRACT: Cosmic-ray muons and especially their secondaries break apart nuclei ("spallation") and produce fast neutrons and beta-decay isotopes, which are backgrounds for low-energy experiments. In Super-Kamiokande, these beta decays are the dominant background in 6--18 MeV, relevant for solar neutrinos and the diffuse supernova neutrino background. In a previous paper, we showed that these spallation isotopes are produced primarily in showers, instead of in isolation. This explains an empirical spatial correlation between a peak in the muon Cherenkov light profile and the spallation decay, which Super-Kamiokande used to develop a new spallation cut. However, the muon light profiles that Super-Kamiokande measured are grossly inconsistent with shower physics. We show how to resolve this discrepancy and how to reconstruct accurate profiles of muons and their showers from their Cherenkov light. We propose a new spallation cut based on these improved profiles and quantify its effects. Our results can significantly benefit low-energy studies in Super-Kamiokande, and will be especially important for detectors at shallower depths, like the proposed Hyper-Kamiokande.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Physical Review D
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    ABSTRACT: The Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory (JUNO), a 20 kton multi-purpose underground liquid scintillator detector, was proposed with the determination of the neutrino mass hierarchy as a primary physics goal. It is also capable of observing neutrinos from terrestrial and extra-terrestrial sources, including supernova burst neutrinos, diffuse supernova neutrino background, geoneutrinos, atmospheric neutrinos, solar neutrinos, as well as exotic searches such as nucleon decays, dark matter, sterile neutrinos, etc. We present the physics motivations and the anticipated performance of the JUNO detector for various proposed measurements. By detecting reactor antineutrinos from two power plants at 53-km distance, JUNO will determine the neutrino mass hierarchy at a 3-4 sigma significance with six years of running. The measurement of antineutrino spectrum will also lead to the precise determination of three out of the six oscillation parameters to an accuracy of better than 1\%. Neutrino burst from a typical core-collapse supernova at 10 kpc would lead to ~5000 inverse-beta-decay events and ~2000 all-flavor neutrino-proton elastic scattering events in JUNO. Detection of DSNB would provide valuable information on the cosmic star-formation rate and the average core-collapsed neutrino energy spectrum. Geo-neutrinos can be detected in JUNO with a rate of ~400 events per year, significantly improving the statistics of existing geoneutrino samples. The JUNO detector is sensitive to several exotic searches, e.g. proton decay via the $p\to K^++\bar\nu$ decay channel. The JUNO detector will provide a unique facility to address many outstanding crucial questions in particle and astrophysics. It holds the great potential for further advancing our quest to understanding the fundamental properties of neutrinos, one of the building blocks of our Universe.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015
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    Eric G. Speckhard · Kenny C. Y. Ng · John F. Beacom · Ranjan Laha
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    ABSTRACT: Dark matter decays or annihilations that produce line-like spectra may be smoking-gun signals. However, even such distinctive signatures can be mimicked by astrophysical or instrumental causes. We show that velocity spectroscopy-the measurement of energy shifts induced by relative motion of source and observer-can separate these three causes with minimal theoretical uncertainties. The principal obstacle has been energy resolution, but upcoming and proposed experiments will make significant improvements. As an example, we show that the imminent Astro-H mission can use Milky Way observations to separate possible causes of the 3.5-keV line. We discuss other applications.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Physical Review Letters
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    ABSTRACT: On 2014 Dec. 9.61, the All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN or "Assassin") discovered ASASSN-14lp just $\sim2$ days after first light using a global array of 14-cm diameter telescopes. ASASSN-14lp went on to become a bright supernova ($V = 11.94$ mag), second only to SN 2014J for the year. We present prediscovery photometry (with a detection less than a day after first light) and ultraviolet through near-infrared photometric and spectroscopic data covering the rise and fall of ASASSN-14lp for more than 100 days. We find that ASASSN-14lp had a broad light curve ($\Delta m_{15}(B) = 0.796 \pm 0.001_{\textrm{stat}}$), a $B$-band maximum at $2457015.823 \pm 0.030_{\textrm{stat}}$, a rise time of $16.94^{+ 0.11 }_{- 0.11 }$ days, and moderate host--galaxy extinction ($E(B-V)_{\textrm{host}} = 0.329 \pm 0.001_{\textrm{stat}}$). Using ASASSN-14lp we derive a distance modulus for NGC 4666 of $\mu = 30.834 \pm 0.003_{\textrm{stat}} \pm 0.16_{\textrm{syst}}$ corresponding to a distance of $14.68 \pm 0.02_{\textrm{stat}} \pm 1.15_{\textrm{syst}}$ Mpc. However, a tip of the red giant branch distance to the host galaxy should be measured to allow ASASSN-14lp to be added to the calibrating sample of Type Ia supernovae. Finally, using our early-time photometric and spectroscopic data along with our derived light curve properties, we rule out red giant secondaries with limits on the radius of a non-degenerate companion as small as $0.34 \rm{R}_\odot$ for favorable viewing angles and estimates of the explosion time.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery and early evolution of ASASSN-15lh, the most luminous supernova ever found. At redshift z=0.2326, ASASSN-15lh reached an absolute magnitude of M_{u,AB} ~ -23.5 and bolometric luminosity L_bol ~ 2.2x10^45 ergs/s, which is >~ 2 times more luminous than any previously known supernova. Its spectra match the hydrogen-poor sub-class of super-luminous supernovae (SLSNe-I), whose energy sources and progenitors are poorly understood. In contrast to known SLSNe-I, most of which reside in star-forming, dwarf galaxies, its host appears to be a luminous galaxy (M_V ~ -22; M_K ~ -25.1) with little star formation. In the two months since its first detection, ASASSN-15lh has radiated ~7.5x10^51 ergs, challenging the popular magnetar model for the engine of SLSNe-I.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We present ground-based and Swift photometric and spectroscopic observations of the candidate tidal disruption event (TDE) ASASSN-14li, found at the centre of PGC 043234 (d ≃ 90 Mpc) by the All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN). The source had a peak bolometric luminosity of L ≃ 1044 erg s−1 and a total integrated energy of E ≃ 7 × 1050 erg radiated over the ∼6 months of observations presented. The UV/optical emission of the source is well fitted by a blackbody with roughly constant temperature of T ∼ 35 000 K, while the luminosity declines by roughly a factor of 16 over this time. The optical/UV luminosity decline is broadly consistent with an exponential decline, $L\propto \text{e}^{-t/t_0}$, with t0 ≃ 60 d. ASASSN-14li also exhibits soft X-ray emission comparable in luminosity to the optical and UV emission but declining at a slower rate, and the X-ray emission now dominates. Spectra of the source show broad Balmer and helium lines in emission as well as strong blue continuum emission at all epochs. We use the discoveries of ASASSN-14li and ASASSN-14ae to estimate the TDE rate implied by ASAS-SN, finding an average rate of r ≃ 4.1 × 10−5 yr−1 per galaxy with a 90 per cent confidence interval of (2.2–17.0) × 10−5 yr−1 per galaxy. ASAS-SN found roughly 1 TDE for every 70 Type Ia supernovae in 2014, a rate that is much higher than that of other surveys.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    Mauricio Bustamante · John F. Beacom · Walter Winter
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    ABSTRACT: The flavor composition of high-energy astrophysical neutrinos can reveal the particle physics governing their production, propagation, and interaction. The IceCube Collaboration has published the first experimental determination of the ratio of each flavor to the total flux. We present, as a theoretical counterpart, new results for the full range of received flavor ratios for arbitrary flavor ratios in the sources. With just standard neutrino mixing, this range is quite small. Even when a broad class of new-physics effects is included, it remains surprisingly small. Our results will allow IceCube to more quickly identify when their measurements imply standard, new, or truly exotic physics.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Physical Review Letters
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    Shirley Weishi Li · John F. Beacom
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    ABSTRACT: Crucial questions about solar and supernova neutrinos remain unanswered. Super-Kamiokande has the exposure needed for progress, but detector backgrounds are a limiting factor. A leading component is the beta decays of isotopes produced by cosmic-ray muons and their secondaries, which initiate nuclear spallation reactions. Cuts of events after and surrounding muon tracks reduce this spallation decay background by $\simeq 90\%$ (at a cost of $\simeq 20\%$ deadtime), but its rate at 6 -- 18 MeV is still dominant. A better way to cut this background was suggested in a Super-Kamiokande paper [Bays {\it et al.}, Phys.~Rev.~D {\bf 85}, 052007 (2012)] on a search for the diffuse supernova neutrino background. They found that spallation decays above 16 MeV were preceded near the same location by a peak in the apparent Cherenkov light profile from the muon; a more aggressive cut was applied to a limited section of the muon track, leading to decreased background without increased deadtime. We put their empirical discovery on a firm theoretical foundation. We show that almost all spallation decay isotopes are produced by muon-induced showers, and that these showers are rare enough and energetic enough to be identifiable. This is the first such demonstration for any detector. We detail how the physics of showers explains the peak in the muon Cherenkov light profile and other Super-K observations. Our results provide a physical basis for practical improvements in background rejection that will benefit multiple studies. For solar neutrinos in particular, it should be possible to dramatically reduce backgrounds at energies as low as 6 MeV.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Physical Review D
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    Ranjan Laha · John F. Beacom · Sanjib Kumar Agarwalla
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    ABSTRACT: We examine the prospects for detecting supernova $\nu_e$ in JUNO, RENO-50, LENA, or other approved or proposed large liquid scintillator detectors. The main detection channels for supernova $\nu_e$ in a liquid scintillator are its elastic scattering with electrons and its charged-current interaction with the $^{12}$C nucleus. In existing scintillator detectors, the numbers of events from these interactions are too small to be very useful. However, at the 20-kton scale planned for the new detectors, these channels become powerful tools for probing the $\nu_e$ emission. We find that the $\nu_e$ spectrum can be well measured, to better than $\sim 40\%$ precision for the total energy and better than $\sim 25\%$ precision for the average energy. This is adequate to distinguish even close average energies, e.g., 11 MeV and 14 MeV, which will test the predictions of supernova models. In addition, it will help set constraints on neutrino mixing effects in supernovae by testing non-thermal spectra. Without such large liquid scintillator detectors (or Super-Kamiokande with added gadolinium, which has similar capabilities), supernova $\nu_e$ will be measured poorly, holding back progress on understanding supernovae, neutrinos, and possible new physics.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2014
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    ABSTRACT: We present photometric and spectroscopic observations of ASASSN-13co, an unusually luminous Type II supernova and the first core-collapse supernova discovered by the All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN). First detection of the supernova was on UT 2013 August 29 and the data presented span roughly 3.5 months after discovery. We use the recently developed model from Pejcha & Prieto (2014) to model the multi-band light curves of ASASSN-13co and derive the bolometric luminosity curve. We compare ASASSN-13co to other Type II supernovae to show that it was a unique event that was not only unusually bright for a Type II supernova but also exhibited an atypical light curve shape that does not cleanly match that of either a standard Type II-L or Type II-P supernova.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2014
  • Kenny C. Y. Ng · John F. Beacom

    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Physical Review D
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    ABSTRACT: ASASSN-14ae is a candidate tidal disruption event (TDE) found at the centre of SDSS J110840.11+340552.2 (d ≃ 200 Mpc) by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN). We present ground-based and Swift follow-up photometric and spectroscopic observations of the source, finding that the transient had a peak luminosity of L ≃ 8 × 1043 erg s−1 and a total integrated energy of E ≃ 1.7 × 1050 erg radiated over the ∼5 months of observations presented. The blackbody temperature of the transient remains roughly constant at T ∼ 20 000 K while the luminosity declines by nearly 1.5 orders of magnitude during this time, a drop that is most consistent with an exponential, L ∝ e-t/t 0 with t0 ≃ 39 d. The source has broad Balmer lines in emission at all epochs as well as a broad He ii feature emerging in later epochs. We compare the colour and spectral evolution to both supernovae and normal AGN to show that ASASSN-14ae does not resemble either type of object and conclude that a TDE is the most likely explanation for our observations. At z = 0.0436, ASASSN-14ae is the lowest-redshift TDE candidate discovered at optical/UV wavelengths to date, and we estimate that ASAS-SN may discover 0.1–3 of these events every year in the future.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

  • No preview · Article · Apr 2014
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    Kenny C. Y. Ng · John F. Beacom
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    ABSTRACT: The first detection of high-energy astrophysical neutrinos by IceCube provides new opportunities for tests of neutrino properties. The long baseline through the Cosmic Neutrino Background (C$\nu$B) is particularly useful for directly testing secret neutrino interactions ($\nu$SI) that would cause neutrino-neutrino elastic scattering at a larger rate than the usual weak interactions. We show that IceCube can provide competitive sensitivity to $\nu$SI compared to other astrophysical and cosmological probes, which are complementary to laboratory tests. We study the spectral distortions caused by $\nu$SI with a large s-channel contribution, which can lead to a dip, bump, or cutoff on an initially smooth spectrum. Consequently, $\nu$SI may be an exotic solution for features seen in the IceCube energy spectrum. More conservatively, IceCube neutrino data can be used to set model-independent limits on $\nu$SI. Our phenomenological estimates provide guidance for more detailed calculations, comparisons to data, and model building.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Physical Review D
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    ABSTRACT: Neutron tagging in Gadolinium-doped water may play a significant role in reducing backgrounds from atmospheric neutrinos in next generation proton-decay searches using megaton-scale Water Cherenkov detectors. Similar techniques might also be useful in the detection of supernova neutrinos. Accurate determination of neutron tagging efficiencies will require a detailed understanding of the number of neutrons produced by neutrino interactions in water as a function of momentum transferred. We propose the Atmospheric Neutrino Neutron Interaction Experiment (ANNIE), designed to measure the neutron yield of atmospheric neutrino interactions in gadolinium-doped water. An innovative aspect of the ANNIE design is the use of precision timing to localize interaction vertices in the small fiducial volume of the detector. We propose to achieve this by using early production of LAPPDs (Large Area Picosecond Photodetectors). This experiment will be a first application of these devices demonstrating their feasibility for Water Cherenkov neutrino detectors.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014
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    Shirley Weishi Li · John F. Beacom
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    ABSTRACT: When muons travel through matter, their energy losses lead to nuclear breakup ("spallation") processes. The delayed decays of unstable daughter nuclei produced by cosmic-ray muons are important backgrounds for low-energy astrophysical neutrino experiments, e.g., those seeking to detect solar neutrino or Diffuse Supernova Neutrino Background (DSNB) signals. Even though Super-Kamiokande has strong general cuts to reduce these spallation-induced backgrounds, the remaining rate before additional cuts for specific signals is much larger than the signal rates for kinetic energies of about 6 -- 18 MeV. Surprisingly, there is no published calculation of the production and properties of these backgrounds in water, though there are such studies for scintillator. Using the simulation code FLUKA and theoretical insights, we detail how muons lose energy in water, produce secondary particles, how and where these secondaries produce isotopes, and the properties of the backgrounds from their decays. We reproduce Super-Kamiokande measurements of the total background to within a factor of 2, which is good given that the isotope yields vary by orders of magnitude and that some details of the experiment are unknown to us at this level. Our results break aggregate data into component isotopes, reveal their separate production mechanisms, and preserve correlations between them. We outline how to implement more effective background rejection techniques using this information. Reducing backgrounds in solar and DSNB studies by even a factor of a few could help lead to important new discoveries.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2014 · Physical Review C

Publication Stats

7k Citations
636.15 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2004-2015
    • The Ohio State University
      • • Department of Physics
      • • Center for Cosmology and Astoparticle Physics
      • • Department of Astronomy
      Columbus, Ohio, United States
  • 2006
    • University of California, Berkeley
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 2001-2004
    • Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)
      • Theoretical Physics Department
      Batavia, Illinois, United States
  • 2002
    • Columbia University
      • Department of Physics
      New York, New York, United States
    • University of Chicago
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 2001-2002
    • NASA
      Вашингтон, West Virginia, United States
  • 1998-2000
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Department of Physics
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 1996-1998
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison
      • Department of Physics
      Mississippi, United States