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10 most recent research publications

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ADS (authors="STEEGHS, D")
AM CVn-type systems are ultracompact, hydrogen-deficient accreting binaries with degenerate or semidegenerate donors. The evolutionary history of these systems can be explored by constraining the properties of their donor stars. We present high-speed photometry of Gaia14aae, an AM CVn with a binary period of 49. 7 min and the first AM CVn in which the central white dwarf is fully eclipsed by the donor star. Modelling of the light curves of this system allows for the most precise measurement to date of the donor mass of an AM CVn, and relies only on geometric and well-tested physical assumptions. We find a mass ratio q = M2/M1 = 0.0287 ± 0.0020 and masses M1 = 0.87 ± 0.02 M and M2 = 0.0250 ± 0.0013 M. We compare these properties to the three proposed channels for AM CVn formation. Our measured donor mass and radius do not fit with the contraction that is predicted for AM CVn donors descended from white dwarfs or helium stars at long orbital periods. The donor properties we measure fall in a region of parameter space in which systems evolved from hydrogen-dominated cataclysmic variables are expected, but such systems should show spectroscopic hydrogen, which is not seen in Gaia14aae. The evolutionary history of this system is therefore not clear. We consider a helium-burning star or an evolved cataclysmic variable to be the most likely progenitors, but both models require additional processes and/or fine-tuning to fit the data. Additionally, we calculate an updated ephemeris which corrects for an anomalous time measurement in the previously published ephemeris.
We present a detailed spectroscopic study of the optical counterpart of the neutron star X-ray transient Aquila X-1 during its 2011, 2013 and 2016 outbursts. We use 65 intermediate resolution GTC-10.4 m spectra with the aim of detecting irradiation-induced Bowen blend emission from the donor star. While Gaussian fitting does not yield conclusive results, our full phase coverage allows us to exploit Doppler mapping techniques to independently constrain the donor star radial velocity. By using the component N III 4640.64/4641.84 Å, we measure Kem = 102 ± 6 km s-1. This highly significant detection (≳13σ) is fully compatible with the true companion star radial velocity obtained from near-infrared spectroscopy during quiescence. Combining these two velocities we determine, for the first time, the accretion disc opening angle and its associated error from direct spectroscopic measurements and detailed modelling, obtaining α = 15.5 ^{+ 2.5}_{-5} deg. This value is consistent with theoretical work if significant X-ray irradiation is taken into account and is important in the light of recent observations of GX339-4, where discrepant results were obtained between the donor's intrinsic radial velocity and the Bowen-inferred value. We also discuss the limitations of the Bowen technique when complete phase coverage is not available.
AR Scorpii is unique amongst known white dwarf binaries in showing powerful pulsations extending to radio frequencies. Here we aim to investigate the multi-frequency radio emission of AR Sco in detail, in order to constrain its origin and emission mechanisms. We present interferometric radio frequency imaging of AR Sco at 1.5, 5 and 9 GHz, analysing the total flux and polarization behaviour of this source at high time resolution (10, 3 and 3 s), across a full 3.6 hr orbital period in each band. We find strong modulation of the radio flux on the orbital period and the orbital sideband of the white dwarf's spin period (also known as the "beat" period). This indicates that, like the optical flux, the radio flux arises predominantly from on or near the inner surface of the M-dwarf companion star. The beat-phase pulsations of AR Sco decrease in strength with decreasing frequency. They are strongest at 9 GHz and at an orbital phase ~0.5. Unlike the optical emission from this source, radio emission from AR Sco shows weak linear polarization but very strong circular polarization, reaching ~30% at an orbital phase ~0.8. We infer the probable existence of a non-relativistic cyclotron emission component, which dominates at low radio frequencies. Given the required magnetic fields, this also likely arises from on or near the M-dwarf.
The binary neutron star merger GW170817 was the first multi-messenger event observed in both gravitational and electromagnetic waves. The electromagnetic signal began ~ 2 seconds after the merger with a weak, short burst of gamma-rays, which was followed over the course of the next hours and days by the ultraviolet, optical and near-infrared emission from a radioactively-powered kilonova. The low luminosity of the gamma-rays and the rising radio and X-ray flux from the source at late times could indicate that we are viewing this event outside the opening angle of the beamed relativistic jet launched during the merger. Alternatively, the emission could be arising from a cocoon of material formed from the interaction between a (possibly choked) jet and the merger ejecta. Here we present late-time optical detections and deep near-infrared limits on the emission from GW170817 at 110 days after the merger. Our new observations are at odds with expectations of late-time emission from kilonova models, being too bright and blue. Instead, this late-time optical emission arises from the optical afterglow of GRB 170817A, associated with GW170817. This emission matches the expectations of a structured relativistic jet, that would have launched a high luminosity short GRB to an aligned observer. The distinct predictions for the future optical behaviour in the structured-jet and cocoon models will directly distinguish the origin of the emission.
Context. One-opposition near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) are growing in number, and they must be recovered to prevent loss and mismatch risk, and to improve their orbits, as they are likely to be too faint for detection in shallow surveys at future apparitions.
Aims: We aimed to recover more than half of the one-opposition NEAs recommended for observations by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) using the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) in soft-override mode and some fractions of available D-nights. During about 130 h in total between 2013 and 2016, we targeted 368 NEAs, among which 56 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), observing 437 INT Wide Field Camera (WFC) fields and recovering 280 NEAs (76% of all targets).
Methods: Engaging a core team of about ten students and amateurs, we used the THELI, Astrometrica, and the Find_Orb software to identify all moving objects using the blink and track-and-stack method for the faintest targets and plotting the positional uncertainty ellipse from NEODyS.
Results: Most targets and recovered objects had apparent magnitudes centered around V 22.8 mag, with some becoming as faint as V 24 mag. One hundred and three objects (representing 28% of all targets) were recovered by EURONEAR alone by Aug. 2017. Orbital arcs were prolonged typically from a few weeks to a few years; our oldest recoveries reach 16 years. The O-C residuals for our 1854 NEA astrometric positions show that most measurements cluster closely around the origin. In addition to the recovered NEAs, 22 000 positions of about 3500 known minor planets and another 10 000 observations of about 1500 unknown objects (mostly main-belt objects) were promptly reported to the MPC by our team. Four new NEAs were discovered serendipitously in the analyzed fields and were promptly secured with the INT and other telescopes, while two more NEAs were lost due to extremely fast motion and lack of rapid follow-up time. They increase the counting to nine NEAs discovered by the EURONEAR in 2014 and 2015.
Conclusions: Targeted projects to recover one-opposition NEAs are efficient in override access, especially using at least two-meter class and preferably larger field telescopes located in good sites, which appear even more efficient than the existing surveys. Table 2 is only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to ( or via
On 17 August 2017, the Advanced LIGO and Virgo detectors observed the gravitational-wave event GW170817—a strong signal from the merger of a binary neutron-star system. Less than two seconds after the merger, a γ-ray burst (GRB 170817A) was detected within a region of the sky consistent with the LIGO-Virgo-derived location of the gravitational-wave source. This sky region was subsequently observed by optical astronomy facilities, resulting in the identification of an optical transient signal within about ten arcseconds of the galaxy NGC 4993. This detection of GW170817 in both gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves represents the first 'multi-messenger' astronomical observation. Such observations enable GW170817 to be used as a 'standard siren' (meaning that the absolute distance to the source can be determined directly from the gravitational-wave measurements) to measure the Hubble constant. This quantity represents the local expansion rate of the Universe, sets the overall scale of the Universe and is of fundamental importance to cosmology. Here we report a measurement of the Hubble constant that combines the distance to the source inferred purely from the gravitational-wave signal with the recession velocity inferred from measurements of the redshift using the electromagnetic data. In contrast to previous measurements, ours does not require the use of a cosmic 'distance ladder': the gravitational-wave analysis can be used to estimate the luminosity distance out to cosmological scales directly, without the use of intermediate astronomical distance measurements. We determine the Hubble constant to be about 70 kilometres per second per megaparsec. This value is consistent with existing measurements, while being completely independent of them. Additional standard siren measurements from future gravitational-wave sources will enable the Hubble constant to be constrained to high precision.
The Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer telescope will provide a rapid response to gravitational wave event triggers in order to locate optical counterparts for subsequent multi-wavelength follow-up, explains Danny Steeghs.
ThunderKAT is the image-plane transients programme for MeerKAT. The goal as outlined in 2010, and still today, is to find, identify and understand high-energy astrophysical processes via their radio emission (often in concert with observations at other wavelengths). Through a comprehensive and complementary programme of surveying and monitoring Galactic synchrotron transients (across a range of compact accretors and a range of other explosive phenomena) and exploring distinct populations of extragalactic synchrotron transients (microquasars, supernovae and possibly yet unknown transient phenomena) - both from direct surveys and commensal observations - we will revolutionise our understanding of the dynamic and explosive transient radio sky. As well as performing targeted programmes of our own, we have made agreements with the other MeerKAT large survey projects (LSPs) that we will also search their data for transients. This commensal use of the other surveys, which remains one of our key programme goals in 2016, means that the combined MeerKAT LSPs will produce by far the largest GHz-frequency radio transient programme to date.
Table 2 lists the observing log of the EURONEAR 2013-2016 one-opposition near Earth asteroids (NEAs) recovery project. The Tables includes 457 observed fields (437 using the INT, 12 using the WHT and 4 using the OGS). We ordered the table based on the asteroid designation (first column) then the observing date (start night), listing the apparent magnitude V (according to MPC ephemerides), the proper motion miu and the positional uncertainty of the targets (as shown on the observing date by MPC at 3σ level), the number of acquired images (including nearby fields), and the exposure time (in seconds). In the last three columns we list the current status of the targets (as classified in the paper by Aug 2017), the MPS publication that includes our recovery, and some comments that can include the PHA classification, other used telescopes (WHT or OGS), the track-and-stack technique (TS, whenever used), other possible external stations (MPC observatory code) and the date of later recovery (given only for later recoveries when we were unable to find the targets or for joined simultaneous recoveries). (1 data file).
We present the classification of 26 optical counterparts to X-ray sources discovered in the Galactic Bulge Survey. We use (time-resolved) photometric and spectroscopic observations to classify the X-ray sources based on their multiwavelength properties. We find a variety of source classes, spanning different phases of stellar/binary evolution. We classify CX21 as a quiescent cataclysmic variable (CV) below the period gap, and CX118 as a high accretion rate (nova-like) CV. CXB12 displays excess UV emission, and could contain a compact object with a giant star companion, making it a candidate symbiotic binary or quiescent low-mass X-ray binary (although other scenarios cannot be ruled out). CXB34 is a magnetic CV (polar) that shows photometric evidence for a change in accretion state. The magnetic classification is based on the detection of X-ray pulsations with a period of 81 ± 2 min. CXB42 is identified as a young stellar object, namely a weak-lined T Tauri star exhibiting (to date unexplained) UX Ori-like photometric variability. The optical spectrum of CXB43 contains two (resolved) unidentified double-peaked emission lines. No known scenario, such as an active galactic nucleus or symbiotic binary, can easily explain its characteristics. We additionally classify 20 objects as likely active stars based on optical spectroscopy, their X-ray to optical flux ratios and photometric variability. In four cases we identify the sources as binary stars.