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The discovery of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave signal has generated follow-up observations by over 50 facilities world-wide, ushering in the new era of multi-messenger astronomy. In this paper, we present follow-up observations of the gravitational wave event GW170817 and its electromagnetic counterpart SSS17a/DLT17ck (IAU label AT2017gfo) by 14 Australian telescopes and partner observatories as part of Australian-based and Australian-led research programs. We report early- to late-time multi-wavelength observations, including optical imaging and spectroscopy, mid-infrared imaging, radio imaging, and searches for fast radio bursts. Our optical spectra reveal that the transient source emission cooled from approximately 6 400 K to 2 100 K over a 7-d period and produced no significant optical emission lines. The spectral profiles, cooling rate, and photometric light curves are consistent with the expected outburst and subsequent processes of a binary neutron star merger. Star formation in the host galaxy probably ceased at least a Gyr ago, although there is evidence for a galaxy merger. Binary pulsars with short (100 Myr) decay times are therefore unlikely progenitors, but pulsars like PSR B1534+12 with its 2.7 Gyr coalescence time could produce such a merger. The displacement (~2.2 kpc) of the binary star system from the centre of the main galaxy is not unusual for stars in the host galaxy or stars originating in the merging galaxy, and therefore any constraints on the kick velocity imparted to the progenitor are poor.
The venerable study of cosmic explosions is over a century old. However, until recently, there has existed a glaring six-magnitude luminosity gap between the brightest novae and faintest supernovae. Serendipitous discoveries, archival searches and ongoing systematic surveys are yielding optical transients that are fainter, faster and rarer than supernovae. Theorists predict a variety of mechanisms to produce transients in the gap and observers have the best chance of finding them in the local Universe. Here I review the discoveries and the unique physics of cosmic explosions that bridge this gap between novae and supernovae.
Until recently, the venerable field of cosmic explosions has been plagued with a glaring six-magnitude luminosity gap between the brightest novæ and the faintest supernovæ. A key science driver of the Palomar Transient Factory was a systematic search for optical transients that are fainter, faster and rarer than supernovæ. Theorists predict a variety of mechanisms to produce transients in that “gap”, and observers have the best chance of finding them in the local universe. The talk presented the discoveries and the unique physics of cosmic explosions which bridge that gap between novæ and supernovæ. As Fig. 1 illustrates, there is now evidence of multiple, distinct populations of rare transients in the “gap”.
The venerable study of cosmic explosions is over a century old. However, until recently, there has existed a glaring six-magnitude luminosity gap between the brightest novae and faintest supernovae. To find optical transients that are fainter, faster, and rarer than supernovae, we designed a systematic search: the Palomar Transient Factory. Theorists predict a variety of mechanisms to produce transients in the gap and observers have the best chance of finding them in the local universe. Here I present discoveries and unique physics of cosmic explosions that bridge this gap between novae and supernovae.
We present photometry and spectroscopy of the peculiar Type II supernova SN 2010jp, also named PTF10aaxi. The light curve exhibits a linear decline with a relatively low peak absolute magnitude of only −15.9 (unfiltered), and a low radioactive decay luminosity at late times that suggests a low synthesized nickel mass of about 0.003 M⊙ or less. Spectra of SN 2010jp display an unprecedented triple-peaked Hα line profile, showing: (1) a narrow central component that suggests shock interaction with a dense circumstellar medium (CSM); (2) high-velocity blue and red emission features centered at −12,600 and +15,400 km s−1; and (3) very broad wings extending from −22,000 to +25,000 km s−1. We propose that this line profile indicates a bipolar jet-driven explosion, with the central component produced by normal SN ejecta and CSM interaction at mid and low latitudes, while the high-velocity bumps and broad line wings arise in a nonrelativistic bipolar jet. Jet-driven SNe II are predicted for collapsars resulting from a wide range of initial masses above 25 M⊙, especially at the sub-solar metallicity consistent with the SN host environment. It also seems consistent with the apparently low 56Ni mass that may accompany black hole formation. We speculate that the jet survives to produce observable signatures because the star's H envelope was very low mass, having been mostly stripped away by the previous eruptive mass loss.
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