The Evolution of Aspherical Supernovae

What's this project about?

This project aims to complete a long term comprehensive spectropolarimetric survey of all types of supernovae (SNe). The principal goal of this effort is to improve our understanding of the characteristics and importance of asymmetries in supernova explosions by focusing on the observable evolution. The 61” Kuiper, the 90” Bok, and the 6.5-m MMT telescopes together with the CCD Imaging/Spectropolarimeter (SPOL) instrument will be used to identify and monitor asymmetries in supernovae as they evolve. Polarimetry allows one to probe spatial scales in a supernova that cannot be resolved through direct imaging from earth or space. Spectropolarimetry further enhances the power of this technique by revealing wavelength dependent variations which may result from optical depth dependent geometries.

In recent years, evidence has grown that nearly all supernovae exhibit departures from spherical symmetry. These results, together with advances in computing power that enable full three dimensional (3-D) modeling, are exposing the possibility that asymmetries are not just observable consequences of supernovae, but may in fact be a necessity of the explosion mechanism itself. We seek to obtain spectropolarimetry of the brightest core collapse and thermonuclear explosions on a temporally well sampled basis. This data will be augmented with both photometry and high resolution spectroscopy. The photometry is important to identify specific evolutionary phases while the spectroscopy will be focused on resolving line profiles which could provide additional key geometrical constraints. Observational results from this program will be analyzed using sophisticated axisymmetric aspherical models.