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Published February 2020 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Probing the extragalactic fast transient sky at minute time-scales with DECam


Searches for optical transients are usually performed with a cadence of days to weeks, optimized for supernova discovery. The optical fast transient sky is still largely unexplored, with only a few surveys to date having placed meaningful constraints on the detection of extragalactic transients evolving at sub-hour time-scales. Here, we present the results of deep searches for dim, minute-time-scale extragalactic fast transients using the Dark Energy Camera, a core facility of our all-wavelength and all-messenger Deeper, Wider, Faster programme. We used continuous 20 s exposures to systematically probe time-scales down to 1.17 min at magnitude limits g > 23 (AB), detecting hundreds of transient and variable sources. Nine candidates passed our strict criteria on duration and non-stellarity, all of which could be classified as flare stars based on deep multiband imaging. Searches for fast radio burst and gamma-ray counterparts during simultaneous multifacility observations yielded no counterparts to the optical transients. Also, no long-term variability was detected with pre-imaging and follow-up observations using the SkyMapper optical telescope. We place upper limits for minute-time-scale fast optical transient rates for a range of depths and time-scales. Finally, we demonstrate that optical g-band light-curve behaviour alone cannot discriminate between confirmed extragalactic fast transients such as prompt GRB flashes and Galactic stellar flares.

Additional Information

© 2019 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model). Accepted 2019 November 25. Received 2019 November 18; in original form 2019 March 26. Published: 04 December 2019. We thank the Swift team that helped maximize the observability of DWF target fields with BAT with optimized scheduling of the satellite. We thank Vivek Venkatraman Krishnan for helping with Molonglo operations. We thank the SUPERB (SUrvey for Pulsars and Extragalactic Radio Bursts) team, who coordinated Parkes with other DWF facilities for simultaneous observations. We thank Breakthrough Listen, who collaborated with flexible rescheduling of Parkes observing time to benefit DWF multifacility coordination. Part of this research was funded by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), CE170100004 and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), CE110001020. Research support to IA is provided by the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). Research support to IA is also provided by the GROWTH project, funded by the National Science Foundation under grant no. 1545949. GROWTH is a collaborative project between California Institute of Technology (USA), Pomona College (USA), San Diego State University (USA), Los Alamos National Laboratory (USA), University of Maryland College Park (USA), University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (USA), Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan), National Central University (Taiwan), Indian Institute of Astrophysics (India), Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (India), Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), The Oskar Klein Centre at Stockholm University (Sweden), and Humboldt University (Germany). JC acknowledges the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship grant FT130101219. FJ acknowledges funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant agreement no. 694745). This research has made use of the VizieR catalogue access tool, CDS, Strasbourg, France (DOI: 10.26093/cds/vizier). The original description of the VizieR service was published in A&AS 143, 23. This work has made use of data from the European Space Agency (ESA) mission Gaia (https://www.cosmos.esa.int/gaia), processed by the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC, https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia/dpac/consortium). Funding for the DPAC has been provided by national institutions, in particular the institutions participating in the Gaia Multilateral Agreement. The national facility capability for SkyMapper has been funded through ARC LIEF grant LE130100104 from the Australian Research Council, awarded to the University of Sydney, the Australian National University, Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Queensland, the University of Western Australia, the University of Melbourne, Curtin University of Technology, Monash University, and the Australian Astronomical Observatory. SkyMapper is owned and operated by The Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. This project used data obtained with the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), which was constructed by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration. Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, the Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics at the Ohio State University, the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos, Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico and the Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovacão, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and the Collaborating Institutions in the Dark Energy Survey. The Collaborating Institutions are Argonne National Laboratory, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Cambridge, Centro de Investigaciones Enérgeticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas-Madrid, the University of Chicago, University College London, the DES-Brazil Consortium, the University of Edinburgh, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Institut de Ciències de l'Espai (IEEC/CSIC), the Institut de Física d'Altes Energies, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München and the associated Excellence Cluster Universe, the University of Michigan, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the University of Nottingham, the Ohio State University, the OzDES Membership Consortium the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Portsmouth, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University, the University of Sussex, and Texas A&M University. This study is based on observations at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023