The geometry of exploding stars
Dr Cosimo Inserra and colleagues have measured, for the first time, the polarisation of of a ‘superluminous supernova’ explosion, which is brighter at its peak than normal supernovae by a factor of tens to hundreds.
These recently discovered kinds of supernovae are amongst the most powerful events to be observed in the universe, generating immense light and throwing debris out in patterns that provide clues as to the causes of the explosions.
The Astrophysics Research Centre team (Dr Inserra, PhD student Mattia Bulla, Dr Stuart Sim and Prof Stephen Smartt) examined data from a superluminous supernova gleaned from the Very Large Telescope in Chile. Their examination of the polarisation of the radiation emitted in the event suggests that the explosion is not spherical, but is arranged around a single dominant axis.
From these findings the team wasable to produce a model that may provide insight into the engine room of these explosions – though the team emphasises that their findings are as yet relatively tentative.
Nevertheless, these novel analyses may well provide the basis for fruitful future research in an area of astrophysics that has only opened up very recently.
The paper, ‘Spectropolarimetry of Superluminous Supernovae: Insight into their geometry’, was published in October by the prestigious Astrophysical Journal of the IOP.
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