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Gravitational Waves: A New Astronomy


Luc Blanchet
Contemporary astronomy is undergoing a revolution, perhaps even more important than that which took place with the advent of radioastronomy in the 1960s, and then the opening of the sky to observations in the other electromagnetic wavelengths. The gravitational wave detectors of the LIGO/Virgo collaboration have observed since 2015 the signals emitted during the collision and merger of binary systems of massive black holes at a large astronomical distance. This major discovery opens the way to the new astronomy of gravitational waves, drastically different from the traditional astronomy based on electromagnetic waves. More recently, in 2017, the detection of gravitational waves emitted by the inspiral and merger of a binary system of neutron stars has been followed by electromagnetic signals observed by the γ and X satellites, and by optical telescopes. A harvest of discoveries has been possible thanks to the multi-messenger astronomy, which combines the information from the gravitational wave with that from electromagnetic waves. Another important aspect of the new gravitational astronomy concerns fundamental physics, with the tests of general relativity and alternative theories of gravitation, as well as the standard model of cosmology.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1805.08563.pdf

Neutrino Astronomy with IceCube and Beyond

Kevin J. Meagher on behalf of the IceCube Collaboration
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is a cubic kilometer neutrino telescope located at the geographic South Pole. Cherenkov radiation emitted by charged secondary particles from neutrino interactions is observed by IceCube using an array of 5160 photomultiplier tubes embedded between a depth of 1.5 km to 2.5 km in the Antarctic glacial ice. The detection of astrophysical neutrinos is a primary goal of IceCube and has now been realized with the discovery of a diffuse, high-energy flux consisting of neutrino events from tens of TeV up to several PeV. Many analyses have been performed to identify the source of these neutrinos, including correlations with active galactic nuclei, gamma-ray bursts, and the Galactic plane. IceCube also conducts multi-messenger campaigns to alert other observatories of possible neutrino transients in real time. However, the source of these neutrinos remains elusive as no corresponding electromagnetic counterparts have been identified. This proceeding will give an overview of the detection principles of IceCube, the properties of the observed astrophysical neutrinos, the search for corresponding sources (including real-time searches), and plans for a next-generation neutrino detector, IceCube-Gen2.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1705.00383.pdf

Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light Sails

Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
We examine the possibility that Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) originate from the activity of extragalactic civilizations.
Our analysis shows that beams used for powering large light sails could yield parameters that are consistent with FRBs.
The characteristic diameter of the beam emitter is estimated through a combination of energetic and engineering constraints, and both approaches intriguingly yield a similar result which is on the scale of a large rocky planet.
Moreover, the optimal frequency for powering the light sail is shown to be similar to the detected FRB frequencies. These `coincidences’ lend some credence to the possibility that FRBs might be artificial in origin.
Other relevant quantities, such as the characteristic mass of the light sail, and the angular velocity of the beam, are also derived.
By using the FRB occurrence rate, we infer upper bounds on the rate of FRBs from extragalactic civilizations in a typical galaxy.
The possibility of detecting fainter signals is briefly discussed, and the wait time for an exceptionally bright FRB event in the Milky Way is estimated.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1701.01109.pdf

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How supernovae became the basis of observational cosmology

Supernova classification

Supernova classification

Maria Victorovna Pruzhinskaya, Sergey Mikhailovich Lisakov
This paper is dedicated to the discovery of one of the most important relationships in supernova cosmology – the relation between the peak luminosity of Type Ia supernovae and their luminosity decline rate after maximum light.
The history of this relationship is quite long and interesting. The relationship was independently discovered by the American statistician and astronomer Bert Woodard Rust and the Soviet astronomer Yury Pavlovich Pskovskii in the 1970s.
Using a limited sample of Type I supernovae they were able to show that the brighter the supernova is, the slower its luminosity declines after maximum.
Only with the appearance of CCD cameras could Mark Phillips re-inspect this relationship on a new level of accuracy using a better sample of supernovae. His investigations confirmed the idea proposed earlier by Rust and Pskovskii.
Read more at https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1608/1608.04192.pdf

KIC 8462852 Faded Throughout the Kepler Mission

Over the four years that the Kepler telescope monitored this mysterious star, its light levels dropped by a total of about 3 percent--but not all at a constant rate. (For reference, the huge dip at the 800 mark is one of the huge dips that originally tipped off scientists that this was a freakin' weird star. "It was off the charts," says Montet.)

Over the four years that the Kepler telescope monitored this mysterious star, its light levels dropped by a total of about 3 percent–but not all at a constant rate. (For reference, the huge dip at the 800 mark is one of the huge dips that originally tipped off scientists that this was a freakin’ weird star. “It was off the charts,” says Montet.)

Benjamin T. Montet, Joshua D. Simon
KIC 8462852 is a superficially ordinary main sequence F star for which Kepler detected an unusual series of brief dimming events. We obtain accurate relative photometry of KIC 8462852 from the Kepler full frame images, finding that the brightness of KIC 8462852 monotonically decreased over the four years it was observed by Kepler. Over the first ~1000 days, KIC 8462852 faded approximately linearly at a rate of 0.341 +/- 0.041 percent per year, for a total decline of 0.9%. KIC 8462852 then dimmed much more rapidly in the next ~200 days, with its flux dropping by more than 2%. For the final ~200 days of Kepler photometry the magnitude remained approximately constant, although the data are also consistent with the decline rate measured for the first 2.7 yr. Of a sample of 193 nearby comparison stars and 355 stars with similar stellar parameters, 0.6% change brightness at a rate as fast as 0.341 +/- 0.041 percent per year, and none exhibit either the rapid decline by >2% or the cumulative fading by 3% of KIC 8462852. We examine whether the rapid decline could be caused by a cloud of transiting circumstellar material, finding while such a cloud could evade detection in sub-mm observations, the transit ingress and duration cannot be explained by a simple cloud model. Moreover, this model cannot account for the observed longer-term dimming. No known or proposed stellar phenomena can fully explain all aspects of the observed light curve.

Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1608.01316v1.pdf
Read also: SCIENTISTS IN THE DARK OVER YEARS-LONG DIMMING OF ‘ALIEN MEGASTRUCTURE STAR’