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An extremely energetic supernova from a very massive star in a dense medium

Nicholl, Matt and Blanchard, Peter K. and Berger, Edo and Chornock, Ryan and Margutti, Raffaella and Gomez, Sebastian and Lunnan, Ragnhild and Miller, Adam A. and Fong, Wen-fai and Terreran, Giacomo and Vigna-Gómez, Alejandro and Bhirombhakdi, Kornpob and Bieryla, Allyson and Challis, Pete and Laher, Russ R. and Masci, Frank J. and Paterson, Kerry (2020) An extremely energetic supernova from a very massive star in a dense medium. Nature Astronomy, 4 (9). pp. 893-899. ISSN 2397-3366. doi:10.1038/s41550-020-1066-7.

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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: Bolometric light curve of SN2016aps) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 2: Fit to the light curve of SN2016aps with MOSFIT using a wind-like density profile) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 3: Posteriors for physical parameters inferred using the MOSFIT CSM model) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 4: Simulated observer frame LSST light curves in g,r,i,z bands) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 5: Measurements of the Balmer lines) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 6: Spectroscopic comparison of SN2016aps to the energetic nuclear transients PS16dtm and PS1-10adi) - Updated Version
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The interaction of a supernova with a circumstellar medium (CSM) can dramatically increase the emitted luminosity by converting kinetic energy to thermal energy. In ‘superluminous’ supernovae of type IIn—named for narrow hydrogen lines in their spectra—the integrated emission can reach ~10⁵¹ erg, attainable by thermalizing most of the kinetic energy of a conventional supernova. A few transients in the centres of active galaxies have shown similar spectra and even larger energies, but are difficult to distinguish from accretion onto the supermassive black hole. Here we present a new event, SN2016aps, offset from the centre of a low-mass galaxy, that radiated ≳5 × 10⁵¹ erg, necessitating a hyper-energetic supernova explosion. We find a total (supernova ejecta + CSM) mass likely exceeding 50−100 M_⊙, with energy ≳10⁵² erg, consistent with some models of pair-instability supernovae or pulsational pair-instability supernovae—theoretically predicted thermonuclear explosions from helium cores >50 M_⊙. Independent of the explosion mechanism, this event demonstrates the existence of extremely energetic stellar explosions, detectable at very high redshifts, and provides insight into dense CSM formation in the most massive stars.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access Paper
Nicholl, Matt0000-0002-2555-3192
Blanchard, Peter K.0000-0003-0526-2248
Berger, Edo0000-0002-9392-9681
Chornock, Ryan0000-0002-7706-5668
Margutti, Raffaella0000-0003-4768-7586
Lunnan, Ragnhild0000-0001-9454-4639
Miller, Adam A.0000-0001-9515-478X
Fong, Wen-fai0000-0002-7374-935X
Vigna-Gómez, Alejandro0000-0003-1817-3586
Bhirombhakdi, Kornpob0000-0003-0136-1281
Bieryla, Allyson0000-0001-6637-5401
Laher, Russ R.0000-0003-2451-5482
Masci, Frank J.0000-0002-8532-9395
Additional Information:© 2020 Springer Nature Limited. Received 31 January 2020; Accepted 05 March 2020; Published 13 April 2020. M.N. is a Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow. The Berger Time-Domain Group acknowledge NSF grant AST-1714498 and NASA grant NNX15AE50G. R.L. acknowledges a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship within the Horizon 2020 European Union Framework (H2020-MSCA-IF-2017-794467). W.-f.F. and K.P. acknowledge support from NSF grant numbers AST-1814782 and AST-1909358. The Margutti group acknowledges NSF grant number AST 1909796, NASA grants 80NSSC19K0384 and 80NSSC19K0646. A.A.M. is supported by the LSST Corporation, the Brinson Foundation, the Moore Foundation via the LSSTC Data Science Fellowship Program, and the CIERA Fellowship Program. A.V.-G. acknowledges support by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF132). Data were obtained via the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Swift archive, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory OIR Data Center, the MMT Observatory, the MDM Observatory, the Gemini Observatory, operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under agreement with the NSF, and the W.M. Keck Observatory, operated as a partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and NASA. Operation of the Pan-STARRS1 telescope is supported by NASA under Grants NNX12AR65G and NNX14AM74G. The authors respect the very significant cultural role of Mauna Kea within the indigenous Hawaiian community. Data availability: All data are publicly available via the Open Supernova Catalog61 ( and the Weizmann Interactive SN Repository80 ( Code availability: MOSFiT is publicly available at SuperBol is publicly available at Author Contributions: M.N. wrote the manuscript, led the analysis and obtained the HST and Gemini data. P.K.B. devised the selection algorithm and identified SN2016aps as an interesting source, and analysed the HST images. E.B. advised on the manuscript and leads the overall project. R.C. and K.B. obtained the MDM spectrum and classified SN2016aps. R.M. analysed the UVOT data. P.K.B., S.G., A.B. and P.C. obtained FLWO data. R.L. obtained the Keck spectra. A.V.-G. did the rate calculations. A.A.M., F.J.M. and R.R.L. provided PTF data. W.-f.F. and P.K.B. obtained MMT imaging. G.T., A.A.M. and K.P. obtained Keck imaging. All authors helped wit h the interpretation. The authors declare no competing interests.
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Royal Astronomical SocietyUNSPECIFIED
Marie Curie Fellowship794467
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Brinson FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA)UNSPECIFIED
Danish National Research FoundationDNRF132
Subject Keywords:High-energy astrophysics; Stellar evolution; Time-domain astronomy; Transient astrophysical phenomena
Issue or Number:9
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200430-124205073
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Nicholl, M., Blanchard, P.K., Berger, E. et al. An extremely energetic supernova from a very massive star in a dense medium. Nat Astron 4, 893–899 (2020).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:102932
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:30 Apr 2020 20:31
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:16

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