NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011B-0258

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Proposal Information for 2011B-0258


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: Alicia Soderberg, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Gautham Narayan, Harvard University
CoI: Nathan Sanders, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Ian Czekala, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Christopher Stubbs, Harvard University
CoI: Ryan Chornock, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Ryan Foley, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Armin Rest, Space Telescope Science Institute

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 two classes occupy narrow ranges of absolute magnitudes, around -8 and -18 mag (+/-2 mag) respectively. However, in recent years several transients have been discovered in the wide nova-SN gap and at very high luminosity (<-20 mag), suggesting that new classes of optical transients remain to be discovered. The origin of these events is hotly debated: they are 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 provides an unprecedented opportunity to explore this sparsely-sampled phase-space thanks to its unmatched depth and areal coverage. Here we propose to continue our successful TOO spectroscopy of Pan-STARRS transients in the nova-SN gap and at high luminosity to classify and characterize their origin for the first time. Our Gemini program recently led to the discovery of the most luminous SN-like event to date (z=1.4 with a peak of -24 mag!), as well as other high- and intermediate-luminosity events. Pan-STARRS will continue to discover many such transients and Gemini spectroscopy will determine their origin.


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