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Phd thesis defense: Supernovae seen through gravitational telescopes
  Thesis defense

Monday 29 May 2017
from 10:00 to 14:00
at FB42
Speaker : Tanja Petrushevska (Stockholm University, Department of Physics)
Abstract :

Galaxies, and clusters of galaxies, can act as gravitational lenses and magnify the light of objects behind them. The effect enables observations of very distant supernovae, that otherwise would be too faint to be detected by existing telescopes, and allows studies of the frequency and properties of these rare phenomena when the universe was young. Under the right circumstances, multiple images of the lensed supernovae can be observed, and due to the variable nature of the objects, the difference between the arrival times of the images can be measured. Since the images have taken different paths through space before reaching us, the time-differences are sensitive to the expansion rate of the universe. One class of supernovae, Type Ia, are of particular interest to detect. Their well known brightness can be used to determine the magnification, which can be used to understand the lensing systems.

In this thesis, galaxy clusters are used as gravitational telescopes to search for lensed supernovae at high redshift. Ground-based, near-infrared and optical search campaigns are described of the massive clusters Abell 1689 and 370, which are among the most powerful gravitational telescopes known. The search resulted in the discovery of five photometrically classified, core-collapse supernovae at redshifts of 0.671≤z≤1.703 with significant magnification from the cluster. Owing to the power of the lensing cluster, the volumetric core-collapse supernova rates for 0.4 ≤ z ≤ 2.9 were calculated, and found to be in good agreement with previous estimates and predictions from cosmic star formation history. During the survey, two Type Ia supernovae in A1689 cluster members were also discovered, which allowed the Type Ia explosion rate in galaxy clusters to be estimated. Furthermore, the expectations of finding lensed supernovae at high redshift in simulated search campaigns that can be conducted with upcoming ground- and space-based telescopes, are discussed.

Magnification from a galaxy lens also allows for detailed studies of the supernova properties at high redshift that otherwise would not be possible. Spectroscopic observations of lensed high-redshift supernovae Type Ia are of special interest since they can be used to test for evolution of the standard candle nature of these objects. If systematic redshift-dependent properties are found, their utility for future surveys could be challenged. In the thesis it is shown that the strongly lensed and very distant supernova Type Ia PS1-10afx at z=1.4, does not deviate from the well-studied nearby and intermediate populations of normal supernovae Type Ia.

In a different study, the discovery of the first resolved multiply-imaged gravitationally lensed supernova Type Ia is also reported.

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