A time domain experiment with Swift: monitoring of seven nearby galaxies
INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, via E. Bianchi 46,
2 Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, PO Box 218, Hawthorn VIC 3122, Australia
3 Dipartimento di Fisica, Università Degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 16, 20133 Milano, Italy
4 INFN, Sezione di Firenze, via G. Sansone 1, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy
5 Università degli Studi di Urbino “Carlo Bo”, via A. Saffi 2, 61029 Urbino, Italy
6 INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, salita Moiariello 16, 80131 Napoli, Italy
7 ICRANET, Piazza della Repubblica 10, 65122 Pescara, Italy
8 INAF, Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy
Received: 11 August 2015
Accepted: 12 January 2016
Context. Focused on the study of transient sources, time domain astronomy today is one of the most active and growing areas of research in astronomy. Most of the present and planned surveys aimed at carrying out time domain studies work in the optical band and founded their searching strategies on fixed cadences. Although nothing similar currently exists in the X-ray and ultraviolet (UV) bands, the Swift satellite is certainly the most appropriate available instrument to carry out such surveys.
Aims. We aimed to detect a supernova (SN) shock breakout (SBO) in nearby galaxies. The SBO marks the first escape of radiation from the blast wave that breaks through the photosphere of the star and launches the SN ejecta. The detection of an SBO is a diagnostic for the radius of the progenitor star and the ratio of explosion energy to ejecta mass. It also allows us to determine the onset of the explosion with an accuracy of a few hours to a few seconds.
Methods. Using the XRT and UVOT instruments onboard the Swift satellite, we carried out a weekly cadenced, six-month monitoring of seven nearby galaxies: NGC 1084, NGC 2207/IC 2163, NGC 2770, NGC 4303/M 61, NGC 3147, NGC 3690, and NGC 6754. We searched for variable or transient sources in the collected data. These galaxies were selected because they are close (distance ≤50 Mpc), small enough to fit in the Swift/UVOT field of view, and are hosts of at least three SNe in the past 20 yr.
Results. We found no evidence for an SN SBO event. Five objects located within the light of the sample galaxies were found to be variable in the X-ray and/or in the UV. These include mainly background active galactic nucleus and unresolved ULX in NGC 3690. In addition to these objects, we found two variable Galactic sources: the known nova CP Draconis (which experienced an outburst during our monitoring) and an uncatalogued eclipsing binary.
Conclusions. Despite the lack of SBO detections, the results of our explorative study encourage the use of Swift in further time domain studies. Moreover, since our sample galaxies are within the Universe volume that will be reached by the forthcoming advanced gravitational wave (GW) detectors (a-LIGO and a-Virgo), this work provides an example on how to carry out Swift surveys from which the GW signal from SNe can be detected, and to detect counterparts to GW triggers.
Key words: surveys / supernovae: general / gravitational waves
© ESO, 2016