NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2012A-0197

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Proposal Information for 2012A-0197


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

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

Abstract: For nearly a century two primary classes of optical transients - nova eruptions and supernova explosions - have been studied in detail. These transients occupy narrow ranges of absolute magnitudes, around -8 and -18 mag (+/-2 mag) respectively. However, nascent dedicated surveys (e.g. Pan-STARRS) are now revealing new classes of optical transients in the wide nova-SN gap and at very high luminosities (<-20 mag). 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 these new phenomena thanks to its unmatched depth and multi-band photometry. 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 already uncovered some of the most luminous transients to date (-21 to -24 mag at z=0.5-2), and demonstrated the potential of these events to probe the ISM of high-redshift galaxies (much like GRBs). Pan-STARRS will continue to discover many such transients and Gemini spectroscopy will determine their origin.


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