A major focus of LCOGT is studying supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. These are exploding stars so bright they can be seen from distant galaxies, hundreds of millions to billions of lightyears away. A certain type of supernovae (Type Ia) are used to map out the history of the expansion of the universe and have revealed that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate due to the presence of a mysterious source of energy. We are using the LCOGT network to study nearby supernovae in combination with more distant supernovae discovered by the Supernova Legacy Survey (SNLS) to determine the nature of this Dark Energy. We also study other types of supernovae (core-collapse supernovae), which tell us about the deaths of massive stars and the births of black holes.

LCOGT is a member of several collaborations studying stellar explosions from the nearby to distant universe. The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) is set to begin in March 2009 and will monitor the sky on timescales from days to months, discovering novae, supernovae, and more exotic phenomena in relatively nearby (redshift [z] less than 0.1) galaxies at a rate of hundreds per year. The Supernova Legacy Survey (SNLS) is a recently-completed five year program involving the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Keck, Gemini, and VLT. The SNLS discovered and obtained data on about 2000 distant (0.1<z<1.1) supernovae, the largest sample ever collected.  They are still being analyzed by astronomers at LCOGT. Finally, LCOGT is a member of the Pan-STARRS collaboration, a project using a newly built instrument and telescope in Hawaii to survey 3/4 of the sky in addition to a more focused region (70 square degrees) to medium depth.


Hands-On LCOGT Science at the AAS Meeting!

LCOGT scientists are attending the winter 2013 meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Long Beach, CA. In addition to several poster and oral presentations, LCOGT will be hosting a booth in the conference hall all week. Members of our supernovae, exoplanet, and solar system science teams will be there to talk about their science along with our public outreach group who will be demonstrating the cool interactive education projects available through our website.

Crab Nebula and other things that go bang in the night

Over the past summer I had the opportunity to undertake a summer placement at Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy through the Nuffield Science Bursary scheme, under the supervision of Dr Edward Gomez. The main aim of this project was to explore the final evolutionary phases of a star's life. We looked at both large mass and small mass stars and their end stages, comprising of supernovae and planetary nebulae.

A Cool Dust Factory in the Crab Nebula: A Herschel Study of the Filaments

Whether supernovae are major sources of dust in galaxies is a long-standing debate. We present infrared and submillimeter photometry and spectroscopy from the Herschel Space Observatory of the Crab Nebula between 51 and 670 micron as part of the Mass Loss from Evolved StarS program (MESS). We compare the emission detected with Herschel with multiwavelength data including millimetre, radio, mid-infrared and archive optical images. We carefully remove the synchrotron component using the Herschel and Planck fluxes measured in the same epoch.

ApJ in press

Hubble Space Telescope studies of low-redshift Type Ia supernovae: Evolution with redshift and ultraviolet spectral trends

We present an analysis of the maximum light, near ultraviolet (NUV; 2900-5500 A) spectra of 32 low redshift (0.001<z<0.08) Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). We combine this spectroscopic sample with high-quality gri light curves obtained with robotic telescopes to measure photometric parameters, such as stretch, optical colour, and brightness.


Supernova SN 2011fe from an exploding carbon–oxygen white dwarf star

Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) have been used empirically as standardized candles to reveal the accelerating universe even though fundamental details, such as the nature of the progenitor system and how the star explodes, remained a mystery. There is consensus that a white dwarf star explodes after accreting matter in a binary system, but the secondary could be anything from a main sequence star to a red giant, or even another white dwarf. The uncertainty stems from the fact that no recent SN Ia has been discovered close enough to detect the stars before explosion.

Nature, 480, 344-347 (2011)