Institute of Astronomy

Supernova flash spectroscopy: a new observational window into stellar death

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Avishay Gal-Yam, Weizmann Institute5 February 2015Institute of Astronomy Colloquia

Abstract

We present the technique of flash spectroscopy: rapid spectroscopic observation of supernovae, shortly (hours) after they explode. Strong shock breakout radiation flash-ionizes any surrounding circumstellar material (CSM) distributed around the exploding star, and the resulting recombination emission lines enable a direct measurement of the CSM composition. As the ejecta expand they sweep up the CSM, so a series of spectra tracking the emission line evolution will allow to constrain the physical distribution of gas around each event. The CSM around massive stars is a probe of their evolution during the final year prior to explosion, a critical period not easily accessible till now. We demonstrate the efficacy of this technique with recent studies from the iPTF survey that can regularly detect SNe hours after they explode.

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