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These are the latest articles published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Miao Li et al. 2014 ApJ 795 115
Using the 1.3 m and 2.4 m Telescopes of the MDM Observatory, we identified the close companions of two eclipsing millisecond radio pulsars that were discovered by the Green Bank Telescope in searches of Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope sources, and measured their light curves. PSR J1301+0833 is a black widow pulsar in a 6.5 hr orbit whose companion star is strongly heated on the side facing the pulsar. It varies from R = 21.8 to R > 24 around the orbit. PSR J1628–3205 is a "redback," a nearly Roche-lobe-filling system in a 5.0 hr orbit whose optical modulation in the range 19.0 < R < 19.4 is dominated by strong ellipsoidal variations, indicating a large orbital inclination angle. PSR J1628–3205 also shows evidence for a long-term variation of about 0.2 mag, and an asymmetric temperature distribution possibly due to either off-center heating by the pulsar wind, or large starspots. Modeling of its light curve restricts the inclination angle to i > 55°, the mass of the companion to 0.16 < M c < 0.30 M ☉, and the effective temperature to 3560 < T eff < 4670 K. As is the case for several redbacks, the companion of PSR J1628–3205 is less dense and hotter than a main-sequence star of the same mass.
D. Huppenkothen et al. 2014 ApJ 795 114
Quasi-periodic oscillations (QPOs) observed in the giant flares of magnetars are of particular interest due to their potential to open up a window into the neutron star interior via neutron star asteroseismology. However, only three giant flares have been observed. We therefore make use of the much larger data set of shorter, less energetic recurrent bursts. Here, we report on a search for QPOs in a large data set of bursts from the two most burst-active magnetars, SGR 1806-20 and SGR 1900+14, observed with Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer. We find a single detection in an averaged periodogram comprising 30 bursts from SGR 1806–20, with a frequency of 57 Hz and a width of 5 Hz, remarkably similar to a giant flare QPO observed from SGR 1900+14. This QPO fits naturally within the framework of global magneto-elastic torsional oscillations employed to explain giant flare QPOs. Additionally, we uncover a limit on the applicability of Fourier analysis for light curves with low background count rates and strong variability on short timescales. In this regime, standard Fourier methodology and more sophisticated Fourier analyses fail in equal parts by yielding an unacceptably large number of false-positive detections. This problem is not straightforward to solve in the Fourier domain. Instead, we show how simulations of light curves can offer a viable solution for QPO searches in these light curves.
Jacqueline Fischer et al. 2014 ApJ 795 117
We present a framework for the interpretation of the far-infrared spectra of galaxies in which we have expanded the model parameters compared with previous work by varying the ionization parameter U, column density N(H), and gas density at the cloud face n(H +) for a central starburst or active galactic nucleus (AGN). We compare these models carried out with the Cloudy spectral synthesis code to trends in line-to-total far-infrared luminosity ratios, far-infrared fine-structure line ratios, IRAS colors, and OH and H 2O column densities found in the well-studied sample of 10 nearby galaxies from the IRAS Bright Galaxy Sample with infrared luminosities greater than 10 10 L ☉ and IRAS 60 μm fluxes equal to or greater than that of the nearby ultraluminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG) Arp 220. We find that the spectral sequence extending from normal starburst-type emission-line-dominated spectra to ULIRG-type absorption-dominated spectra with significant absorption from excited levels can be best explained by simultaneously increasing the hydrogen column density, from as low as 10 21 cm –2 to as high as 10 24.8 cm –2 or greater, and the ionization parameter, from as low as 10 –4 to as high as 1. The starburst models best reproduce most of the sequence, while AGN models are somewhat better able to produce the high OH and H 2O column densities in Arp 220. Our results suggest that the molecular interstellar medium in ULIRG-like, molecular-absorption-dominated systems is located close to and at least partially obscures the source of power throughout much of the far-infrared, which must be taken into account in order to properly interpret diagnostics of both their sources of power and of feedback.
Christopher C. Stark et al. 2014 ApJ 795 122
ExoEarth yield is a critical science metric for future exoplanet imaging missions. Here we estimate exoEarth candidate yield using single visit completeness for a variety of mission design and astrophysical parameters. We review the methods used in previous yield calculations and show that the method choice can significantly impact yield estimates as well as how the yield responds to mission parameters. We introduce a method, called Altruistic Yield Optimization, that optimizes the target list and exposure times to maximize mission yield, adapts maximally to changes in mission parameters, and increases exoEarth candidate yield by up to 100% compared to previous methods. We use Altruistic Yield Optimization to estimate exoEarth candidate yield for a large suite of mission and astrophysical parameters using single visit completeness. We find that exoEarth candidate yield is most sensitive to telescope diameter, followed by coronagraph inner working angle, followed by coronagraph contrast, and finally coronagraph contrast noise floor. We find a surprisingly weak dependence of exoEarth candidate yield on exozodi level. Additionally, we provide a quantitative approach to defining a yield goal for future exoEarth-imaging missions.
Kevin N. Hainline et al. 2014 ApJ 795 124
We present the results of an optical spectroscopic survey of a sample of 40 candidate obscured quasars identified on the basis of their mid-infrared emission detected by the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer ( WISE). Optical spectra for this survey were obtained using the Robert Stobie Spectrograph on the Southern African Large Telescope. Our sample was selected with WISE colors characteristic of active galactic nuclei (AGNs), as well as red optical to mid-IR colors indicating that the optical/UV AGN continuum is obscured by dust. We obtain secure redshifts for the majority of the objects that comprise our sample (35/40), and find that sources that are bright in the WISE W4 (22 μm) band are typically at moderate redshift ( z = 0.35) while sources fainter in W4 are at higher redshifts ( z = 0.73). The majority of the sources have narrow emission lines with optical colors and emission line ratios of our WISE-selected sources that are consistent with the locus of AGN on the rest-frame g – z color versus [Ne III] λ3869/[O II] λλ3726+3729 line ratio diagnostic diagram. We also use empirical AGN and galaxy templates to model the spectral energy distributions (SEDs) for the objects in our sample, and find that while there is significant variation in the observed SEDs for these objects, the majority require a strong AGN component. Finally, we use the results from our analysis of the optical spectra and the SEDs to compare our selection criteria to alternate criteria presented in the literature. These results verify the efficacy of selecting luminous obscured AGNs based on their WISE colors.