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Photometric follow-up of DESI transients

Presentation #539.12 in the session “Black Holes and Accretion”.

Published onJan 11, 2021
Photometric follow-up of DESI transients

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is expected to begin its initial phases in 2020. The primary science goal of this instrument is to study baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) but the time domain working group (TDWG) has developed a method for using spectra generated by DESI to identify and classify transient astronomical events. Since DESI only generates spectroscopic data, photometric follow-up is important to gain a more complete understanding of these events. Using Wayne State’s robotic observatory (the Dan Zowada Memorial Observatory), I will follow up alerts of transients generated by the DESI TDWG. These follow-ups will focus on tidal disruption events (TDEs), which occur when a star is destroyed by tidal forces after passing near a black hole. Preliminary simulations show DESI will discover between 5 and 50 of these events during the course of the survey, and the nature of the survey puts it in a unique position to better constrain the currently uncertain rate of TDEs. Fitting light curves generated by Zowada will also provide information on the black hole around which the TDE occurs. This will help to improve the understanding of supermassive black hole growth, as well as the black hole mass distribution of the nearby universe. A secondary focus will be on other transients, such as supernovae or anomalous transients.

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