NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2014B-0378

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Proposal Information for 2014B-0378


PI: Armin Rest, Space Telescope Science Institute, arest@stsci.edu
Address: 3700 San Martin Dr., Baltimore 21218, USA

CoI: Federica Bianco
CoI: Ryan Chornock
CoI: Alejandro Clocchiatti, PUC
CoI: David James, NOAO/CTIO
CoI: Steve Margheim, Gemini
CoI: Thomas Matheson
CoI: Jose Luis Prieto
CoI: Chris Smith
CoI: Nathan Smith
CoI: Nolan Walborn
CoI: Doug Welch, McMaster University
CoI: Alfredo Zenteno, NOAO

Title: Spectrophotometric Time Series of \eta Carinae's Great Eruption

Abstract: \eta Car serves as our most important template for understanding non-SN transients from massive stars in external galaxies. However, until recently, no spectra were available because its historic ``Great Eruption'' (GE) occurred from 1838-1858, before the invention of the astronomical spectrograph, and only visual estimates of its brightness were recorded \citeSF11. Now we can also obtain a spectral sequence of the eruption through its light echoes we discovered, which will be of great value since spectra are our most important tool for inferring physical properties of extragalactic transients. Subsequent spectroscopic follow-up revealed that its outburst was most similar to those of G-type supergiants, rather than reported LBV outburst spectral types of F-type (or earlier) \citeRest12_eta. These differences between the GE and the extragalactic transients presumed to be its analogues raise questions about traditional scenarios for the outburst. We propose to obtain a spectrophotometric time series of the GE from different directions, allowing the original eruption of \eta Car to be studied as a function of time as well as latitude, something only possible with light echoes. This unique detailed spectroscopic study of the light echoes of \eta Car will help us understand (episodic) mass- loss in the most massive evolved stars and their connection to the most energetic core-collapse SNe.


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