PI: Guy Stringfellow, University of Colorado, Guy.Stringfellow@colorado.edu
Address: Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, 389 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0389, USA
Title: Is it Alive? Recovering the Supernova Impostor SN1961V
Abstract: SN 1961V and \eta Carinae were the first recognized examples of what are now referred to as Supernovae Impostors (e.g., Goodrich et al. 1989; GSPF). As the most massive stars evolve off the main sequence, they eventually become unstable and undergo major eruptions, brightening by 6 magnitudes or more (the exact mechanism and physics remains unclear). After eruption the underlying star survives, losing only a small portion of its overall mass, and returns to a quiescent state. This is the Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) phase. Many examples of extragalactic supernovae impostors are now being found. However, the most studied extragalactic example - SN 1961V - remains shrouded in controversy as to whether it was an unusual exotic supernovae or indeed an LBV eruption. GSPF made predictions of detectability of the surviving progenitor and searches have been made to recover it using \it HST and \it Spitzer. While progenitor candidates have been found, only one object thus far appears to display LBV-like characteristics. I propose to conduct the first deep imaging study in the near-IR using NIRI with the laser adaptive optics system Altair on Gemini North to search for (confirm) the surviving progenitor, which should be brighter at these wavelengths. JHK imaging down to ~23 mag will provide color information of sources detected with AO-corrected angular resolution that is competitive with that obtained from \it HST (~0.1^\prime\prime). As H(alpha) and Br(gamma) should be the strongest emission lines both during outburst and in the quiescent state, narrow band Br(gamma) imaging should be well detected and definitive. The proposed observations should resolve this ongoing controversy, so important in understanding the nature of extragalactic SN impostors and their surviving progenitors.
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