Fe McBride – Multimessenger Astrophysicist


ADS list of publications
ADS list of refereed publications


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Bowdoin Observatory Move
Multimessenger observations of a flaring blazar coincident with high-energy neutrino IceCube-170922A
Coincidence of a high-fluence blazar outburst with a PeV-energy neutrino event

Selected refereed Publications by topic

(First/corresponding author and student-led papers are marked in blue)
For a complete list of publications, use the ADS link at the top of the page.

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Neutrinos and multimessenger observations

Search for Gamma-Ray and Neutrino Coincidences Using HAWC and ANTARES Data

Ayalo Solares H. A., Coutu S., Cowen. D.,…, McBride F. et al. 2023, ApJ 944, 166.

ADS ArXiV Journal

In the quest for high-energy neutrino sources, the Astrophysical Multimessenger Observatory Network has implemented a new search by combining data from the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Observatory and the Astronomy with a Neutrino Telescope and Abyss environmental RESearch (ANTARES) neutrino telescope. Using the same analysis strategy as in a previous detector combination of HAWC and IceCube data, we perform a search for coincidences in HAWC and ANTARES events that are below the threshold for sending public alerts in each individual detector. Data were collected between 2015 July and 2020 February with a live time of 4.39 yr. Over this time period, three coincident events with an estimated false-alarm rate of <1 coincidence per year were found. This number is consistent with background expectations.

Multimessenger Gamma-Ray and Neutrino Coincidence Alerts using HAWC and IceCube sub-threshold Data

Ayalo Solares H. A., Coutu S., DeLaunay J. J.,…, Krauß F. et al. 2021, ApJ 906, 63.

ADS ArXiV Journal

The High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) and IceCube observatories, through the Astrophysical Multimessenger Observatory Network (AMON) framework, have developed a multimessenger joint search for extragalactic astrophysical sources. This analysis looks for sources that emit both cosmic neutrinos and gamma rays that are produced in photo-hadronic or hadronic interactions. The AMON system is running continuously, receiving sub-threshold data (i.e. data that is not suited on its own to do astrophysical searches) from HAWC and IceCube, and combining them in real-time. We present here the analysis algorithm, as well as results from archival data collected between June 2015 and August 2018, with a total live-time of 3.0 years. During this period we found two coincident events that have a false alarm rate (FAR) of <1 coincidence per year, consistent with the background expectations. The real-time implementation of the analysis in the AMON system began on November 20th, 2019, and issues alerts to the community through the Gamma-ray Coordinates Network with a FAR threshold of <4 coincidences per year.

On the Detection Potential of Blazar Flares for Current Neutrino Telescopes

Kreter M., Kadler M., Krauß F. et al. 2020, ApJ 902, 133.

ADS ArXiV Journal

Blazar jets are extreme environments, in which relativistic proton interactions with an ultraviolet photon field could give rise to photopion production. High-confidence associations of individual high-energy neutrinos with blazar flares could be achieved via spatially and temporally coincident detections. In 2017, the track-like, extremely high-energy neutrino event IC 170922A was found to coincide with increased γ-ray emission from the blazar TXS 0506+056, leading to the identification of the most promising neutrino point source candidate so far. We calculate the expected number of neutrino events that can be detected with IceCube, based on a broadband parametrization of bright short-term blazar flares that were observed in the first 6.5 years of Fermi/LAT observations. We find that the integrated keV-to-GeV fluence of most individual blazar flares is far too small to yield a substantial Poisson probability for the detection of one or more neutrinos with IceCube. We show that the sample of potentially detectable high-energy neutrinos from individual blazar flares is rather small. We further show that the blazars 3C 279 and PKS 1510−089 dominate the all-sky neutrino prediction from bright and short-term blazar flares. In the end, we discuss strategies to search for more significant associations in future data unblindings of IceCube and KM3NeT.

Multimessenger observations of counterparts to IceCube-190331A

Krauß F., Calamari E., Azadeh K. et al. 2020, MNRAS 497, 2553-2561.

ADS ArXiV Journal

High-energy neutrinos are a promising tool for identifying astrophysical sources of high and ultra-high energy cosmic rays (UHECR). Prospects of detecting neutrinos at high energies (≳TeV) from blazars have been boosted after the recent association of IceCube-170922A and TXS 0506+056. We investigate the high-energy neutrino, IceCube-190331A, a high-energy starting event (HESE) with a high likelihood of being astrophysical in origin. We initiated a Swift/XRT and UVOT tiling mosaic of the neutrino localisation, and followed up with ATCA radio observations, compiling a multiwavelength SED for the most likely source of origin. NuSTAR observations of the neutrino location and a nearby X-ray source were also performed. We find two promising counterpart in the 90% confidence localisation region and identify the brightest as the most likely counterpart. However, no Fermi/LAT γ-ray source and no prompt Swift/BAT source is consistent with the neutrino event. At this point it is unclear whether any of the counterparts produced IceCube-190331A. We note that the Helix Nebula is also consistent with the position of the neutrino event, and we calculate that associated particle acceleration processes cannot produce the required energies to generate a high-energy HESE neutrino.

Fermi-LAT counterparts of IceCube neutrinos above 100 TeV

Krauß F., Deoskar K. et al. 2018, A&A 620, A174.

ADS ArXiV Journal

The IceCube Collaboration has published four years of data and the observed neutrino flux is significantly in excess of the expected atmospheric background. Due to the steeply falling atmospheric background spectrum, events at the highest energies are most likely extraterrestrial. In our previous approach we have studied blazars as the possible origin of the High-Energy Starting Events (HESE) neutrino events at PeV energies. In this work we extend our study to include all HESE neutrinos (which does not include IC 170922A) at or above a reconstructed energy of 100 TeV, but below 1 PeV. We study the X-ray and γ-ray data of all (∼200) 3LAC blazars that are positionally consistent with the neutrino events above 100 TeV to determine the maximum neutrino flux from these sources. This larger sample allows us to better constrain the scaling factor between the observed and maximum number of neutrino events. We find that when we consider a realistic neutrino spectrum and other factors, the number of neutrinos is in good agreement with the detected number of IceCube HESE events. We also show that there is no direct correlation between Fermi-LAT γ-ray flux and the IceCube neutrino flux and that the expected number of neutrinos is consistent with the non-detection of individual bright blazars.

Multimessenger observations of a flaring blazar coincident with high-energy neutrino IceCube-170922A

The IceCube Collaboration, the Fermi/LAT collaboration, et al. 2018, Science 361, 6398.

ADS ArXiV Journal

Previous detections of individual astrophysical sources of neutrinos are limited to the Sun and the supernova 1987A, whereas the origins of the diffuse flux of high-energy cosmic neutrinos remain unidentified. On 22 September 2017, we detected a high-energy neutrino, IceCube-170922A, with an energy of ~290 tera–electron volts. Its arrival direction was consistent with the location of a known γ-ray blazar, TXS 0506+056, observed to be in a flaring state. An extensive multiwavelength campaign followed, ranging from radio frequencies to γ-rays. These observations characterize the variability and energetics of the blazar and include the detection of TXS 0506+056 in very-high-energy γ-rays. This observation of a neutrino in spatial coincidence with a γ-ray–emitting blazar during an active phase suggests that blazars may be a source of high-energy neutrinos.

Coincidence of a high-fluence blazar outburst with a PeV-energy neutrino event

Kadler M., Krauß F., Mannheim K. et al. 2016, Nature Physics 12, 807.

ADS ArXiV Journal

The discovery of extraterrestrial very-high-energy neutrinos by the IceCube collaboration has launched a quest for the identification of their astrophysical sources. Gamma-ray blazars have been predicted to yield a cumulative neutrino signal exceeding the atmospheric background above energies of 100 TeV, assuming that both the neutrinos and the gamma-ray photons are produced by accelerated protons in relativistic jets. Since the background spectrum falls steeply with increasing energy, the individual events with the clearest signature of being of an extraterrestrial origin are those at PeV energies. Inside the large positional-uncertainty fields of the first two PeV neutrinos detected by IceCube, the integrated emission of the blazar population has a sufficiently high electromagnetic flux to explain the detected IceCube events, but fluences of individual objects are too low to make an unambiguous source association. Here, we report that a major outburst of the blazar PKS B1424-418 occurred in temporal and positional coincidence with the third PeV-energy neutrino event (IC35) detected by IceCube. Based on an analysis of the full sample of gamma-ray blazars in the IC35 field and assuming a photo-hadronic emission model, we show that the long-term average gamma-ray emission of blazars as a class is in agreement with both the measured all-sky flux of PeV neutrinos and the spectral slope of the IceCube signal. The outburst of PKS B1424-418 has provided an energy output high enough to explain the observed PeV event, indicative of a direct physical association.

ANTARES constrains a blazar origin of two IceCube PeV neutrino events

Adrián-Martínez S. Albert A., …, Krauß F. et al. 2015, A&A 576, L8

ADS ArXiV Journal

Context. The source(s) of the neutrino excess reported by the IceCube Collaboration is unknown. The TANAMI Collaboration recently reported on the multiwavelength emission of six bright, variable blazars which are positionally coincident with two of the most energetic IceCube events. Objects like these are prime candidates to be the source of the highest-energy cosmic rays, and thus of associated neutrino emission.
Aims. We present an analysis of neutrino emission from the six blazars using observations with the ANTARES neutrino telescope.
Methods. The standard methods of the ANTARES candidate list search are applied to six years of data to search for an excess of muons – and hence their neutrino progenitors – from the directions of the six blazars described by the TANAMI Collaboration, and which are possibly associated with two IceCube events. Monte Carlo simulations of the detector response to both signal and background particle fluxes are used to estimate the sensitivity of this analysis for different possible source neutrino spectra. A maximum-likelihood approach, using the reconstructed energies and arrival directions of through-going muons, is used to identify events with properties consistent with a blazar origin.
Results. Both blazars predicted to be the most neutrino-bright in the TANAMI sample (1653−329 and 1714−336) have a signal flux fitted by the likelihood analysis corresponding to approximately one event. This observation is consistent with the blazar-origin hypothesis of the IceCube event IC 14 for a broad range of blazar spectra, although an atmospheric origin cannot be excluded. No ANTARES events are observed from any of the other four blazars, including the three associated with IceCube event IC20. This excludes at a 90% confidence level the possibility that this event was produced by these blazars unless the neutrino spectrum is flatter than −2.4.

TANAMI blazars in the IceCube PeV-neutrino fields

Krauß F. et al. 2014, A&A 566, L7

ADS ArXiV Journal

The IceCube Collaboration has announced the discovery of a neutrino flux in excess of the atmospheric background. Owing to the steeply falling atmospheric background spectrum, events at PeV energies most likely have an extraterrestrial origin. We present the multiwavelength properties of the six radio-brightest blazars that are positionally coincident with these events using contemporaneous data of the TANAMI blazar sample, including high-resolution images and spectral energy distributions. Assuming the X-ray to γ-ray emission originates in the photoproduction of pions by accelerated protons, the integrated predicted neutrino luminosity of these sources is high enough to explain the two detected PeV events.

Jets & Blazar SEDs

Breaking degeneracy in jet dynamics: multi-epoch joint modelling of the BL Lac PKS 2155-304

Lucchini M., Markoff S., Crumley P., Krauß F. et al. 2019, MNRAS 482, 4798-4812.

ADS ArXiV Journal

Supermassive black holes can launch powerful jets which can be some of the most luminous multiwavelength sources; decades after their discovery their physics and energetics are still poorly understood. The past decade has seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of available data, but despite this improvement the semi-analytical modelling of jets has advanced slowly: simple one-zone models are still the most commonly employed method of interpreting data, in particular for active galactic nucleus (AGN) jets. These models can roughly constrain the properties of jets but they cannot unambiguously couple their emission to the launching regions and internal dynamics, which can be probed with simulations. However, simulations are not easily comparable to observations because they cannot yet self-consistently predict spectra. We present an advanced semi-analytical model which accounts for the dynamics of the whole jet, starting from a simplified parametrization of relativistic magnetohydrodynamics in which the magnetic flux is converted into bulk kinetic energy. To benchmark the model, we fit six quasi-simultaneous, multiwavelength spectral energy distributions of the BL Lac PKS 2155–304 obtained by the TANAMI (Tracking Active Galactic Nuclei with Austral Milliarc-second Interferometry) program, and we address the degeneracies inherent to such a complex model by employing a state-of-the-art exploration of parameter space, which so far has been mostly neglected in the study of AGN jets. We find that this new approach is much more effective than a single-epoch fit in providing meaningful constraints on model parameters.

The unique case of the active galactic nucleus core of M87: a misaligned low-power blazar?

Lucchini M., Krauß F., Markoff S. 2019, MNRAS 489, p.1633-1643.

ADS ArXiV Journal

M87 hosts one of the closest jetted active galactic nuclei (AGN) to Earth. Thanks to its vicinity and to the large mass of its central black hole, M87 is the only source in which the jet can be directly imaged down to near-event horizon scales with radio very large baseline interferometry. This property makes M87 a unique source to isolate and study jet launching, acceleration, and collimation. In this paper, we employ a multizone model designed as a parametrization of general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD); for the first time, we reproduce the jet’s observed shape and multiwavelength spectral energy distribution simultaneously. We find strong constraints on key physical parameters of the jet, such as the location of particle acceleration and the kinetic power. However, we underpredict the (unresolved) gamma-ray flux of the source, implying that the high-energy emission does not originate in the magnetically dominated inner jet regions. Our results have important implications both for comparisons of GRMHD simulations with observations and for unified models of AGN classes.

The TANAMI Multiwavelength Program: Dynamic SEDs of Southern Blazars

Krauß F., Wilms J., Kadler M. et al. 2016, A&A 591, A130.

ADS ArXiV Journal

Simultaneous broadband spectral and temporal studies of blazars are an important tool for investigating active galactic nuclei (AGN) jet physics. We study the spectral evolution between quiescent and flaring periods of 22 radio-loud AGN through multi-epoch, quasi-simultaneous broadband spectra. For many of these sources these are the first broadband studies. We use a Bayesian block analysis of Fermi/LAT light curves in order to determine time ranges of constant flux for constructing quasi-simultaneous SEDs. The shapes of the resulting 81 SEDs are described by two logarithmic parabolas and a blackbody spectrum where needed. For low states the peak frequencies and luminosities agree well with the blazar sequence, higher luminosity implying lower peak frequencies. This is not true for sources in a high state. The γ-ray photon index in Fermi/LAT correlates with the synchrotron peak frequency in low and intermediate states. No correlation is present in high states. The black hole mass cannot be determined from the SEDs. Surprisingly, the thermal excess often found in FSRQs at optical/UV wavelengths can be described by blackbody emission and not an accretion disk spectrum. The “harder-when-brighter” trend, typically seen in X-ray spectra of flaring blazars, is visible in the blazar sequence. Our results for low and intermediate states, as well as the Compton dominance, are in agreement with previous results. Black hole mass estimates using the parameters from Bonchi (2013) are in agreement with some of the more direct measurements. For two sources, estimates disagree by more than four orders of magnitude, possibly due to boosting effects. The shapes of the thermal excess seen predominantly in flat spectrum radio quasars are inconsistent with a direct accretion disk origin.

Peculiar AGN

The Peculiar Variable X-Ray Spectrum of the Active Galactic Nucleus PKS 2005-489

Chase O., McBride F., Gokus A. et al. 2023, ApJ 948, 2.

ADS ArXiV Journal

PKS 2005-489 is a well-known, bright southern BL Lac object that has been detected up to TeV energies. In a low-flux state it exhibits the expected multiwavelength double-peaked spectrum in the radio-γ-ray band. The high-flux state shows extreme flux variations in the X-ray band with a hardening as well as a peculiar curved feature in the spectrum. Thus far, PKS 2005-489 is the only source to exhibit such a feature. To study the X-ray variability further, we obtained the first hard X-ray spectrum of the source with the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. We compare quasi-simultaneous radio, optical, UV, soft and hard X-ray, and γ-ray data of PKS 2005-489 to archival data in order to study its broadband behavior. We find a very consistent quiet state in the spectral energy distribution, with little variation in spectral shape or flux between the 2012 and 2020 data. A possible explanation for the peculiar X-ray spectrum in the flaring state is an additional component in the jet, possibly accelerated via magnetic reconnection, that is not co-spatial to the low-flux state emission region.

Investigating source confusion in PMN J1603-4904

Krauß F., Kreter M., Müller C. et al. 2018, A&A 610, L8.

ADS ArXiV Journal

PMN J1603-4904 is a likely member of the rare class of γ-ray emitting young radio galaxies. Only one other source, PKS 1718-649, has been confirmed so far. These objects, which may transition into larger radio galaxies, are a stepping stone to understanding AGN evolution. It is not completely clear how these young galaxies, seen edge-on, can produce high-energy γ rays. PMN J1603-4904 has been detected by TANAMI Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) observations and has been followed-up with multiwavelength observations. A Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope Large Area Telescope (Fermi-LAT) γ-ray source has been associated with this young galaxy in the LAT catalogs. We have obtained Chandra observations of the source to consider the possibility of source confusion due to the relatively large positional uncertainty of Fermi-LAT. The goal was to investigate the possibility of other X-ray bright sources in the vicinity of PMN J1603-4904 that could be counterparts to the γ-ray emission. With Chandra/ACIS, we find no other sources in the uncertainty ellipse of Fermi-LAT data, which includes an improved localization analysis of eight years of data. We further study the X-ray fluxes and spectra. We conclude that PMN J1603-4904 is indeed the second confirmed γ-ray bright young radio galaxy.

Black hole lightning due to particle acceleration at subhorizon scales

Aleksić J., …, Krauß F. et al. 2014, Science 346, 1080

ADS ArXiV Journal

Supermassive black holes with masses of millions to billions of solar masses are commonly found in the centers of galaxies. Astronomers seek to image jet formation using radio interferometry but still suffer from insufficient angular resolution. An alternative method to resolve small structures is to measure the time variability of their emission. Here we report on gamma-ray observations of the radio galaxy IC 310 obtained with the MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov) telescopes, revealing variability with doubling time scales faster than 4.8 min. Causality constrains the size of the emission region to be smaller than 20% of the gravitational radius of its central black hole. We suggest that the emission is associated with pulsar-like particle acceleration by the electric field across a magnetospheric gap at the base of the radio jet.


A Variable-Density Absorption Event in NGC 3227 mapped with Suzaku and Swift

Beuchert T., Markowitz A., Krauß F., et al. 2015, A&A 584, A82.

ADS ArXiV Journal

The morphology of the circumnuclear gas accreting onto supermassive black holes in Seyfert galaxies remains a topic of much debate. As the innermost regions of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are spatially unresolved, X-ray spectroscopy, and in particular line-of-sight absorption variability, is a key diagnostic to map out the distribution of gas. Observations of variable X-ray absorption in multiple Seyferts and over a wide range of timescales indicate the presence of clumps/clouds of gas within the circumnuclear material. Eclipse events by clumps transiting the line of sight allow us to explore the properties of the clumps over a wide range of radial distances from the optical/UV Broad Line Region (BLR) to beyond the dust sublimation radius. Time-resolved absorption events have been extremely rare so far, but suggest a range of density profiles across Seyferts. We resolve a weeks-long absorption event in the Seyfert NGC 3227. We examine six Suzaku and twelve Swift observations from a 2008 campaign spanning 5 weeks. We use a model accounting for the complex spectral interplay of three differently-ionized absorbers. We perform time-resolved spectroscopy to discern the absorption variability behavior. We also examine the IR-to-X-ray spectral energy distribution (SED) to test for reddening by dust. The 2008 absorption event is due to moderately-ionized (log ξ∼1.2−1.4) gas covering 90% of the line of sight. We resolve the density profile to be highly irregular, in contrast to a previous symmetric and centrally-peaked event mapped with RXTE in the same object. The UV data do not show significant reddening, suggesting that the cloud is dust-free. The 2008 campaign has revealed a transit by a filamentary, moderately-ionized cloud of variable density that is likely located in the BLR, and possibly part of a disk wind.

PSR J1906+0722: An elusive gamma-ray pulsar

Clark C.J., Pletsch H.J., …, Krauß F., et al. 2015, ApJ 809, L2

ADS ArXiV Journal

We report the discovery of PSR J1906+0722, a gamma-ray pulsar detected as part of a blind survey of unidentified Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) sources being carried out on the volunteer distributed computing system, Einstein@Home. This newly discovered pulsar previously appeared as the most significant remaining unidentified gamma-ray source without a known association in the second Fermi-LAT source catalog (2FGL) and was among the top ten most significant unassociated sources in the recent third catalog (3FGL). PSR J1906+0722 is a young, energetic, isolated pulsar, with a spin frequency of 8.9 Hz, a characteristic age of 49 kyr, and spin-down power 1.0×1036 erg s-1. In 2009 August it suffered one of the largest glitches detected from a gamma-ray pulsar (Δf/f≈4.5×10−6). Remaining undetected in dedicated radio follow-up observations, the pulsar is likely radio-quiet. An off-pulse analysis of the gamma-ray flux from the location of PSR J1906+0722 revealed the presence of an additional nearby source, which may be emission from the interaction between a neighboring supernova remnant and a molecular cloud. We discuss possible effects which may have hindered the detection of PSR J1906+0722 in previous searches and describe the methods by which these effects were mitigated in this survey. We also demonstrate the use of advanced timing methods for estimating the positional, spin and glitch parameters of difficult-to-time pulsars such as this.

5.9 keV Mn K-shell X-ray luminosity from the decay of 55Fe in Type Ia supernova models

Seitenzahl I.R., Summa A., Krauß F. et al. 2015, MNRAS 447, 1484

ADS ArXiV Journal

We show that the X-ray line flux of the Mn Kα line at 5.9 keV from the decay of 55Fe is a promising diagnostic to distinguish between Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) explosion models. Using radiation transport calculations, we compute the line flux for two three-dimensional explosion models: a near-Chandrasekhar mass delayed detonation and a violent merger of two (1.1 and 0.9 M) white dwarfs. Both models are based on solar metallicity zero-age main-sequence progenitors. Due to explosive nuclear burning at higher density, the delayed-detonation model synthesizes ∼3.5 times more radioactive 55Fe than the merger model. As a result, we find that the peak Mn Kα line flux of the delayed-detonation model exceeds that of the merger model by a factor of ∼4.5. Since in both models the 5.9-keV X-ray flux peaks five to six years after the explosion, a single measurement of the X-ray line emission at this time can place a constraint on the explosion physics that is complementary to those derived from earlier phase optical spectra or light curves. We perform detector simulations of current and future X-ray telescopes to investigate the possibilities of detecting the X-ray line at 5.9 keV. Of the currently existing telescopes, XMM–Newton/pn is the best instrument for close (≲1–2 Mpc), non-background limited SNe Ia because of its large effective area. Due to its low instrumental background, Chandra/ACIS is currently the best choice for SNe Ia at distances above ∼2 Mpc. For the delayed-detonation scenario, a line detection is feasible with Chandra up to ∼3 Mpc for an exposure time of 106 s. We find that it should be possible with currently existing X-ray instruments (with exposure times ≲5 × 105 s) to detect both of our models at sufficiently high S/N to distinguish between them for hypothetical events within the Local Group. The prospects for detection will be better with future missions. For example, the proposed Athena/X-IFU instrument could detect our delayed-detonation model out to a distance of ∼5 Mpc. This would make it possible to study future events occurring during its operational life at distances comparable to those of the recent supernovae SN 2011fe (∼6.4 Mpc) and SN 2014J (∼3.5 Mpc).

Updated: July 2023