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Ghirlanda G. | Ghirlanda Giancarlo | Ghirlanda Stefano

G Rebecca R. | G Raju Renjit. | G Vijay Kumar B | G Iván E. Sánchez | G Sainath | G | G Aasis Vinayak. P. | G Maheswar. | G Mauricio Contreras | G Sreeni K.

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Sensitivity of the Cherenkov Telescope Array for probing cosmology and fundamental physics with gamma-ray propagation

Consortium The Cherenkov Telescope Array, : , Abdalla H., Abe H., Acero F., Acharyya A., Adam R., Agudo I., Aguirre-Santaella A., Alfaro R.
03 Oct 2020 astro-ph.HE astro-ph.CO arxiv.org/abs/2010.01349

The Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), the new-generation ground-based observatory for $\gamma$-ray astronomy, provides unique capabilities to address significant open questions in astrophysics, cosmology, and fundamental physics. We study some of the salient areas of $\gamma$-ray cosmology that can be explored as part of the Key Science Projects of CTA, through simulated observations of active galactic nuclei (AGN) and of their relativistic jets. Observations of AGN with CTA will enable a measurement of $\gamma$-ray absorption on the extragalactic background light with a statistical uncertainty below 15% up to a redshift $z=2$ and to constrain or detect $\gamma$-ray halos up to intergalactic-magnetic-field strengths of at least 0.3pG. Extragalactic observations with CTA also show promising potential to probe physics beyond the Standard Model. The best limits on Lorentz invariance violation from $\gamma$-ray astronomy will be improved by a factor of at least two to three. CTA will also probe the parameter space in which axion-like particles could constitute a significant fraction, if not all, of dark matter. We conclude on the synergies between CTA and other upcoming facilities that will foster the growth of $\gamma$-ray cosmology.

The best place and time to live in the Milky Way

Spinelli R., Ghirlanda G., Haardt F., Ghisellini G., Scuderi G.
28 Sep 2020 astro-ph.HE astro-ph.EP astro-ph.GA arxiv.org/abs/2009.13539

Among the most powerful cosmic events, supernovae (SNe) and gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) can be highly disruptive for life: their radiation can be harmful for biota or induce extinction by removing most of the protective atmospheric ozone layer on terrestrial planets. Nearby high-energy transient astrophysical events have been proposed as possible triggers of mass extinctions on Earth. We aim at assessing the habitability of the Milky Way (MW) along its cosmic history against potentially disruptive astrophysical transients with the scope of identifying the safest places and epochs within our Galaxy. We also test the hypothesis that long GRBs had a leading role in the late Ordovician mass extinction event (~440 Myrs ago). We characterise the habitability of the MW along its cosmic history as a function of galactocentric distance of terrestrial planets. We estimate the dangerous effects of transient astrophysical events (long/short GRBs and SNe) with a model which binds their rate to the specific star formation and metallicity evolution within the Galaxy along its cosmic history. Our model also accounts for the probability of forming terrestrial planets around FGK and M stars. Until ~6 billion years ago the outskirts of the Galaxy were the safest places to live, despite the relatively low density of terrestrial planets. In the last ~4 billion years, regions between 2 and 8 kpc from the center, featuring a higher density of terrestrial planets, became the best places for a relatively safer biotic life growth. We confirm the hypothesis that one long GRB had a leading role in the late Ordovician mass extinction event. In the last 500 Myrs, the safest galactic region is comprised between 2 and 8 kpc from the center of the MW, whereas the outskirts of the Galaxy have been sterilized by 2-5 long GRBs.

Distinguishing the nature of ''ambiguous'' merging systems hosting a neutron star: GW190425 in low-latency

Barbieri C., Salafia O. S., Colpi M., Ghirlanda G., Perego A.
21 Feb 2020 astro-ph.HE arxiv.org/abs/2002.09395

GW190425 is the newly discovered gravitational wave (GW) source consistent with a neutron star-neutron star merger with chirp mass of $1.44\pm0.02M_\odot.$ This value falls in the $ambiguous$ interval as from the GW signal alone we can not rule out the presence of a black hole in the binary. In this case, the system would host a neutron star and a very light stellar black hole, with mass close to the maximum value for neutron stars, filling the $mass$ $gap$. No electromagnetic counterpart is firmly associated with this event, due to the poorly informative sky localisation and larger distance, compared to GW/GRB170817. We construct here kilonova light curve models for GW190425, for both double neutron star and black hole-neutron star systems, considering two equations of state consistent with current constraints from the signals of GW170817/GW190425 and the NICER results, including black hole spin effects and assuming a new formula for the mass of the ejecta. The putative presence of a light black hole in GW190425 would have produced a brighter kilonova emission compared to the double neutron star case, letting us to distinguish the nature of the companion to the neutron star. Concerning candidate counterparts of GW190425, classified later on as supernovae, our models could have discarded two transients detected in their early $r$-band evolution. Combining the chirp mass and luminosity distance information from the GW signal with a library of kilonova light curves helps identifying the electromagnetic counterpart early on. We remark that the release in low latency of the chirp mass in this interval of $ambiguous$ values appears to be vital for successful electromagnetic follow-ups.

Observational constraints on the optical and near-infrared emission from the neutron star-black hole binary merger S190814bv

Ackley K., Amati L., Barbieri C., Bauer F. E., Benetti S., Bernardini M. G., Bhirombhakdi K., Botticella M. T., Branchesi M., Brocato E.
05 Feb 2020 astro-ph.SR astro-ph.GA astro-ph.HE arxiv.org/abs/2002.01950

On 2019 August 14, the LIGO and Virgo interferometers detected a high-significance event labelled S190814bv. Preliminary analysis of the GW data suggests that the event was likely due to the merger of a compact binary system formed by a BH and a NS. ElectromagNetic counterparts of GRAvitational wave sources at the VEry Large Telescope (ENGRAVE) collaboration members carried out an intensive multi-epoch, multi-instrument observational campaign to identify the possible optical/near infrared counterpart of the event. In addition, the ATLAS, GOTO, GRAWITA-VST, Pan-STARRS and VINROUGE projects also carried out a search on this event. Our observations allow us to place limits on the presence of any counterpart and discuss the implications for the kilonova (KN) possibly generated by this NS-BH merger, and for the strategy of future searches. Altogether, our observations allow us to exclude a KN with large ejecta mass $M\gtrsim 0.1\,\mathrm{M_\odot}$ to a high ($>90\%$) confidence, and we can exclude much smaller masses in a subsample of our observations. This disfavours the tidal disruption of the neutron star during the merger. Despite the sensitive instruments involved in the campaign, given the distance of S190814bv we could not reach sufficiently deep limits to constrain a KN comparable in luminosity to AT 2017gfo on a large fraction of the localisation probability. This suggests that future (likely common) events at a few hundreds Mpc will be detected only by large facilities with both high sensitivity and large field of view. Galaxy-targeted observations can reach the needed depth over a relevant portion of the localisation probability with a smaller investment of resources, but the number of galaxies to be targeted in order to get a fairly complete coverage is large, even in the case of a localisation as good as that of this event.

Proton-synchrotron as the radiation mechanism of the prompt emission of GRBs?

Ghisellini G., Ghirlanda G., Oganesyan G., Ascenzi S., Nava L., Celotti A., Salafia O. S., Ravasio E. M., Ronchi M.
04 Dec 2019 astro-ph.HE arxiv.org/abs/1912.02185

We discuss the new surprising observational results that indicate quite convincingly that the prompt emission of Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) is due to synchrotron radiation produced by a particle distribution that has a low energy cut-off. The evidence of this is provided by the low energy part of the spectrum of the prompt emission, that shows the characteristic F(nu) \propto nu^(1/3) shape followed by F(nu) \propto nu^(-1/2) up to the peak frequency. This implies that although the emitting particles are in fast cooling, they do not cool completely. This poses a severe challenge to the basic ideas about how and where the emission is produced, because the incomplete cooling requires a small value of the magnetic field, to limit synchrotron cooling, and a large emitting region, to limit the self-Compton cooling, even considering Klein-Nishina scattering effects. Some new and fundamental ingredient is required for understanding the GRBs prompt emission. We propose proton-synchrotron as a promising mechanism to solve the incomplete cooling puzzle.

The rise and fall of the high-energy afterglow emission of GRB 180720B

Ronchi M., Fumagalli F., Ravasio M. E., Oganesyan G., Toffano M., Salafia O. S., Nava L., Ascenzi S., Ghirlanda G., Ghisellini G.
23 Sep 2019 astro-ph.HE arxiv.org/abs/1909.10531

The Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) 180720B is one of the brightest events detected by the Fermi satellite and the first GRB detected by the H.E.S.S. telescope above 100 GeV. We analyse the Fermi (GBM and LAT) and Swift (XRT and BAT) data and describe the evolution of the burst spectral energy distribution in the 0.5 keV - 10 GeV energy range over the first 500 seconds of emission. We reveal a smooth transition from the prompt phase, dominated by synchrotron emission in a moderately fast cooling regime, to the afterglow phase whose emission has been observed from the radio to the GeV energy range. The LAT (0.1 - 100 GeV) light curve initially rises ($F_{\rm LAT}\propto t^{2.4}$), peaks at $\sim$78 s, and falls steeply ($F_{\rm LAT}\propto t^{-2.2}$) afterwards. The peak, which we interpret as the onset of the fireball deceleration, allows us to estimate the bulk Lorentz factor $\Gamma_{0}\sim 150 \ (300)$ under the assumption of a wind-like (homogeneous) circum-burst medium density. We derive a flux upper limit in the LAT energy range at the time of H.E.S.S. detection, but this does not allow us to unveil the nature of the high energy component observed by H.E.S.S. We fit the prompt spectrum with a physical model of synchrotron emission from a non-thermal population of electrons. The 0 - 35 s spectrum after its $E F(E)$ peak (at 1 - 2 MeV) is a steep power law extending to hundreds of MeV. We derive a steep slope of the injected electron energy distribution $N(\gamma)\propto \gamma^{-5}$. Our fit parameters point towards a very low magnetic field ($B'\sim 1 $ G) in the emission region.

Electromagnetic counterparts of black hole-neutron star mergers: dependence on the neutron star properties

Barbieri C., Salafia O. S., Perego A., Colpi M., Ghirlanda G.
23 Aug 2019 astro-ph.HE arxiv.org/abs/1908.08822

Detections of gravitational waves (GWs) may soon uncover the signal from the coalescence of a black hole - neutron star (BHNS) binary, that is expected to be accompanied by an electromagnetic (EM) signal. In this paper, we present a composite semi-analytical model to predict the properties of the expected EM counterpart from BHNS mergers, focusing on the kilonova emission and on the gamma-ray burst afterglow. Four main parameters rule the properties of the EM emission: the NS mass $M_\mathrm{NS}$, its tidal deformability $\Lambda_\mathrm{NS}$, the BH mass and spin. Only for certain combinations of these parameters an EM counterpart is produced. Here we explore the parameter space, and construct light curves, analysing the dependence of the EM emission on the NS mass and tidal deformability. Exploring the NS parameter space limiting to $M_\mathrm{NS}-\Lambda_\mathrm{NS}$ pairs described by a physically motivated equations of state (EoS), we find that the brightest EM counterparts are produced in binaries with low mass NSs (fixing the BH properties and the EoS). Using constraints on the NS EoS from GW170817, our modeling shows that the emission falls in a narrow range of absolute magnitudes. Within the range of explored parameters, light curves and peak times are not dissimilar to those from NSNS mergers, except in the B band. The lack of an hyper/supra-massive NS in BHNS coalescences causes a dimming of the blue kilonova emission in absence of the neutrino interaction with the ejecta.

The high-energy radiation environment of the habitable-zone super-Earth LHS 1140b

Spinelli R., Borsa F., Ghirlanda G., Ghisellini G., Campana S., Haardt F., Poretti E.
20 Jun 2019 astro-ph.EP arxiv.org/abs/1906.08783

In the last few years many exoplanets in the habitable zone (HZ) of M-dwarfs have been discovered, but the X-ray/UV activity of cool stars is very different from that of our Sun. The high-energy radiation environment influences the habitability, plays a crucial role for abiogenesis, and impacts planetary atmospheres. LHS 1140b is a super-Earth-size planet orbiting in the HZ of LHS 1140, an M4.5 dwarf at ~15 parsecs. We present the results of a Swift X-ray/UV observing campaign. We characterize for the first time the X-ray/UV radiation environment of LHS 1140b. We measure the variability of the near ultraviolet (NUV) flux and estimate the far ultraviolet (FUV) flux with a correlation between FUV and NUV flux of a sample of low-mass stars in the GALEX archive. We highlight the presence of a dominating X-ray source close to the J2000 coordinates of LHS 1140, characterize its spectrum, and derive an X-ray flux upper limit for LHS 1140. We find that this contaminant source could have influenced the previously estimated spectral energy distribution. No significant variation of the NUV flux of LHS 1140 is found over 3 months, and we do not observe any flare during the 38 ks on the target. LHS 1140 is in the 25th percentile of least variable M4-M5 dwarfs of the GALEX sample. Analyzing the UV flux experienced by the HZ planet LHS 1140b, we find that outside the atmosphere it receives a NUV flux <2% with respect to that of the present-day Earth, while the FUV/NUV ratio is ~100-200 times higher. This represents a lower limit to the true FUV/NUV ratio since the GALEX FUV band does not include Lyman-alpha, which dominates the FUV output of low-mass stars. This is a warning for future searches for biomarkers, which must take into account this high ratio. The relatively low level and stability of UV flux experienced by LHS 1140b should be favorable for its present-day habitability.

A NuSTAR view of powerful gamma-ray loud blazars

Ghisellini G., Perri M. L., Costamante G., Tagliaferri G., Sbarrato T., Campitiello S., Madejski G., Tavecchio F., Ghirlanda G.
07 Jun 2019 astro-ph.HE arxiv.org/abs/1906.02955

We observed with the NuSTAR satellite 3 blazars at z>2, detected in gamma-rays by Fermi/LAT and in the soft X-rays, but not yet observed above 10 keV. The flux and slope of their X-ray continuum, together with Fermi/LAT data allows us to estimate their total electromagnetic output and peak frequency. For some of them we can study the source in different states, and investigate the main cause of the observed different spectral energy distribution. We then collected all blazars at redshift greater than 2 observed by NuSTAR, and confirm that these hard and luminous X-ray blazars are among the most powerful persistent sources in the Universe. We confirm the relation between the jet power and the disk luminosity, extending it at the high energy end.

The on-axis view of GRB 170817A

Salafia O. S., Ghirlanda G., Ascenzi S., Ghisellini G.
03 May 2019 astro-ph.HE arxiv.org/abs/1905.01190

The peculiar short gamma-ray burst GRB 170817A has been firmly associated to the gravitational wave event GW170817, which has been unaninmously interpreted as due to the coalescence of a double neutron star binary. The unprecedented behaviour of the non-thermal afterglow led to a debate about its nature, which was eventually settled by high-resolution VLBI observations, which strongly support the off-axis structured jet scenario. Using information on the jet structure derived from multi-wavelength fitting of the afterglow emission and of the apparent VLBI image centroid motion, we compute the appearance of a GRB 170817A-like jet as seen by an on-axis observer and we compare it to the previously observed population of SGRB afterglows and prompt emission events. We find that the intrinsic properties of the GRB 170817A jet are representative of a typical event in the SGRB population, hinting at a quasi-universal jet structure. The diversity in the SGRB afterglow population could therefore be ascribed in large part to extrinsic (redshift, density of the surrounding medium, viewing angle) rather than intrinsic properties. Although more uncertain, the comparison can be extended to the prompt emission properties, leading to similar conclusions.