NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2010B-0207

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Proposal Information for 2010B-0207


PI: Edo Berger, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, eberger@cfa.harvard.edu
Address: 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

CoI: Kathy Roth, Gemini Observatory - North
CoI: Christopher Stubbs, Harvard University
CoI: Alicia Soderberg, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Gautham Narayan, Harvard University
CoI: Wen-fai Fong, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Ryan Chornock, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Ryan Foley, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Armin Rest, Harvard University
CoI: David Sand, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Title: Exotic Explosions and Eruptions: Exploring a New Transient Phase-Space with Pan-STARRS

Abstract: For over a century two classes of optical transients - nova eruptions and supernova explosions - have been studied in great detail. These classes occupy narrow ranges of absolute magnitudes, around -8 and -18 mag (+/-2 mag) respectively. However, in recent years several transients have been discovered both in the wide nova-SN gap and at high luminosity (<-20 mag), suggesting that new classes of optical transients remain to be discovered. The origin of these events is hotly debated. They have been argued to represent massive star eruptions, deficient white dwarf thermonuclear explosions, eta Carina-like ejections, and possibly new SN mechanisms (electron-capture, fallback, pair-instability). The Pan-STARRS project, now in operation, provides an unprecedented opportunity to explore this sparsely-sampled phase space thanks to its unmatched depth and areal coverage. Here we propose TOO spectroscopy of Pan-STARRS transients in the nova-SN gap and at high luminosity to classify and characterize their origin in detail for the first time. Results from our on-going Gemini program demonstrate that Pan-STARRS will discover tens of such transients in the coming years, and Gemini spectroscopy will allow us to determine their origin.


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