Rapidly Evolving Transients in Archival ZTF Public Alerts

Wenxiong Li*, Iair Arcavi, Ehud Nakar, Alexei V. Filippenko, Thomas G. Brink, Wei Kang Zheng, Yi Yang, Marco C. Lam, Ido Keinan, Seán J. Brennan, Noi Shitrit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We search the archival Zwicky Transient Facility public survey for rapidly evolving transient (RET) candidates based on well-defined criteria between 2018 May and 2021 December. The search yielded 19 bona fide RET candidates, corresponding to a discovery rate of ∼5.2 events per year. Even with a Galactic latitude cut of 20°, eight of the 19 events (∼42%) are Galactic, including one with a light-curve shape closely resembling that of the GW170817 kilonova (KN). An additional event is a nova in M31. Four out of the 19 events (∼21%) are confirmed extragalactic RETs (one confirmed here for the first time) and the origin of six additional events cannot be determined. We did not find any extragalactic events resembling the GW170817 KN, from which we obtain an upper limit on the volumetric rate of GW170817-like KNe of R ≤ 2400 Gpc−3 yr−1 (95% confidence). These results can be used for quantifying contaminants to RET searches in transient alert streams, specifically when searching for KNe independently of gravitational-wave and gamma-ray-burst triggers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number144
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023


FundersFunder number
Alan Eustace
Christopher R. Redlich Fund
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron and Humboldt University
Israeli Council for Higher Education Alon Fellowship
Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics
National Central University of Taiwan
Weizmann Institute for Science
National Science FoundationAST-1238877, AST-1440341
National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationNNX08AR22G
W. M. Keck Foundation
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
California Institute of Technology
University of Washington
Johns Hopkins University
University of Maryland
University of Hawai'i
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme852097
Space Telescope Science Institute
Royal SocietyRS-EA/3471
European Research Council
University of Edinburgh
Queen's University Belfast
Durham University
Science Foundation Ireland
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
Israel Science Foundation2752/19
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem
Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie


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