NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2013B-0315

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Proposal Information for 2013B-0315


PI: Ryan Chornock, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, rchornock@cfa.harvard.edu
Address: 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

CoI: Kathy Roth, Gemini Observatory
CoI: Edo Berger, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Ragnhild Lunnan, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Alicia Soderberg, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Ryan Foley, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Armin Rest, Space Telescope Science Institute
CoI: Raffaella Margutti, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
CoI: Laura Chomiuk, Michigan State University

Title: Unveiling the Explosion Physics of Nature's Most Luminous Supernovae

Abstract: For nearly a century, two primary classes of optical transients - nova eruptions and supernova explosions - have been studied in great detail. However, new dedicated surveys such as Pan-STARRS are now revealing new types of optical transients, the most extreme of which are superluminous supernovae (SLSNe) approaching -23 mag and extending to z 2. The origin of these events is hotly debated: we do not know if they result from unusual explosion or energy extraction mechanisms, and whether their progenitors require unique properties in terms of mass, binarity, or environment. Pan-STARRS provides an unprecedented opportunity to explore these new phenomena over a wide redshift range thanks to its unmatched depth and multi-band photometry. Here we propose to continue our successful TOO spectroscopy of Pan-STARRS SLSNe to decipher their underlying energy source and evolution. Our Gemini program already uncovered the most luminous transients to date (-21 to -23 mag at z=0.5-2), and moreover demonstrated their potential to probe the interstellar medium of distant galaxies (much like GRB afterglows). Pan-STARRS will continue to provide detailed light curves for SLSNe, and Gemini spectroscopy will determine their origin.


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