Scialog: Collaborative Teams - 2017
Physics, Carnegie Observatories
Astronomy, University of Arizona
Supernova Light Curves Influenced by Hidden CSM Interaction
Although exploding stars — supernovae — are among the biggest, brightest explosions in the universe, scientists haven’t worked out precisely what happens during such a cataclysmic moment and the days and weeks afterward, as the immense force of the explosion roils out into space.
Recently, however, Daniel Kasen, University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Anthony Piro, Carnegie Observatories; and Nathan Smith, University of Arizona, formed a team and won a funding competition that will allow them to study a puzzling aspect of supernovae. They will be looking at what happens to all the stray matter — called circumstellar material (CSM) — including gas clouds, dust, planetesimals, asteroids and collision fragments – caught in the path of a specific type of exploding star.
They will be focusing on Type II supernovae. Stellar explosions are classified based on the variations in light emanating from such events. The Type II supernovae class contains several subclasses, and the spectrographic readings from these subclasses vary for reasons that are not entirely understood. Kasen, Piro and Smith hypothesize these differences may be due to the shape, distribution and mass of the CSM, and they will be making observations of sample Type II supernovae though the Magellan and MMT observatories, and then running highly complex computer simulations to test their theories.
The three scientists formed their collaboration at an RCSA-sponsored conference, Scialog: Time Domain Astrophysics, held late last year in Tucson, Arizona. There, 50 leading young astronomers and astrophysicists, joined by 10 distinguished senior scientists, engaged in intensive discussions designed to produce creative ideas for innovative research. (Scialog is a combination of “science” and “dialog.”)
“Scialog aims to encourage collaborations among theorists, experimentalists and computational scientists,” said RCSA Program Director Richard Wiener. “We want to catalyze the development of a community in which theory and observation work together to achieve understanding of fundamental phenomena.”