Supernovae are the explosive deaths of stars, occurring at the endpoint of massive stars and certain kinds of binary star systems. They are essential to understand the evolutionary history of our universe: most of the heavy elements we find on Earth are known only to have been synthesised during supernova explosions, and certain types of supernovae have shown that we live in an expanding universe. Type IIn Supernovae are of particular interest. This mysterious class covers a range of transients who can remain brighter for longer than any other type II supernova and whose hydrogen lines have little to no P Cygni profile, and instead display narrow components superimposed on much broader bases. However, it is not clear whether these transients all originate in the same manner.
The current generation of wide field-of-view (FOV) surveys such as ATLAS, Pan-STARRS and ZTF are yielding observational data of unprecedented quantity and quality. Thanks to these, we have sampled enough type IIn supernovae to begin to quantify meaningfully their volume within the local universe. With these discoveries, we can begin to categorise the heterogeneous nature associated with type IIn supernovae and challenge our understanding of their origins and interaction between the supernova ejecta and a hydrogen-rich circumstellar medium (CSM) that govern the evolution of type IIn supernovae, which will hopefully provide new insights for a range of astrophysical issues.
The student will be tasked with quantifying the volume of type IIn supernovae within the local universe.
The project will involve analysing, interpreting and modelling the light curves of known and well-sampled type IIn supernovae in an attempt to calculate a volumetric rate, differentiate their heterogeneous nature and determine if there exists a relation between the brightness and lifetime of the supernovae and its host galaxy. Doing so will require a combination of gathering/analysis of photometric and spectroscopic data from the ATLAS and PESSTO surveys as part of our supernovae research group. There will also be the opportunity to participate in our daily “eyeballing” of ATLAS data in search of new astronomical transients.
Supervisor: Michael Fulton, accompanied by the transient group in ARC.