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Bumpy light curves of interacting supernovae
  Thesis defense

Thursday 18 May 2017
from 13:00 to 15:00
at FB42
Speaker : Anders Nyholm (Institutionen för Astronomi, Stockholms Universitet)
Abstract : A supernova (SN) is the explosive destruction of a star. Via a luminous outpouring of radiation, the SN can rival the brightness of its SN host galaxy for months or years. In the past decade, astronomical surveys regularly observing the sky to deep limiting magnitudes have revealed that core collapse SNe (the demises of massive stars) are sometimes preceded by eruptive episodes by the progenitor stars during the years before the eventual SN explosion. Such SNe tend to show strong signatures of interaction between the SN ejecta and the circumstellar medium (CSM) deposited by the star before the SN explosion, likely by mass-loss episodes like the ones we have started to observe regularly. The complex CSM resolved around certain giant stars in our own galaxy and the eruptions of giant stars like Eta Car in the 19th century can be seen in this context. As the SN ejecta of an interacting SN sweep up the CSM of the progenitor, radiation from this process offers observers opportunity to scan the late mass loss history of the progenitor. In this thesis, interacting SNe and eruptive mass loss of their progenitors is discussed. The SN iPTF13z (discovered by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory, iPTF) is presented. This transient was followed with optical photometry and spectroscopy during 1000 days and displayed a light curve with several conspicuous re-brigthenings ("bumps"), likely arising from SN ejecta interacting with denser regions in the CSM. Around 200 days before discovery, in archival data we found a clear precursor outburst lasting ~> 50 days. A well-observed (but not necessarily well understood) event like SN 2009ip, which showed both precursor outbursts and a light curve bump, makes an interesting comparison object. The embedding of the (possible) SN in a CSM makes it hard to tell if a destructive SN explosion actually happened. In this respect, iPTF13z is compared to e.g. SN 2009ip but also to long-lived interacting SNe like SN 1988Z. Some suggestions for future investigations are offered, to tie light curve bumps to precursor events and to clarify the question of core collapse in the ambiguous cases of some interacting SNe.

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