A Caltech Library Service

A surge of light at the birth of a supernova

Bersten, M. C. and Folatelli, G. and García, F. and Van Dyk, S. D. and Benvenuto, O. G. and Orellana, M. and Buso, V. and Sánchez, J. L. and Tanaka, M. and Maeda, K. and Filippenko, A. V. and Zheng, W. and Brink, T. G. and Cenko, S. B. and de Jaeger, T. and Kumar, S. and Moriya, T. J. and Nomoto, K. and Perley, D. A. and Shivvers, I. and Smith, N. (2018) A surge of light at the birth of a supernova. Nature, 554 (7693). pp. 497-499. ISSN 0028-0836.

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


It is difficult to establish the properties of massive stars that explode as supernovae. The electromagnetic emission during the first minutes to hours after the emergence of the shock from the stellar surface conveys important information about the final evolution and structure of the exploding star. However, the unpredictable nature of supernova events hinders the detection of this brief initial phase. Here we report the serendipitous discovery of a newly born, normal type IIb supernova (SN 2016gkg), which reveals a rapid brightening at optical wavelengths of about 40 magnitudes per day. The very frequent sampling of the observations allowed us to study in detail the outermost structure of the progenitor of the supernova and the physics of the emergence of the shock. We develop hydrodynamical models of the explosion that naturally account for the complete evolution of the supernova over distinct phases regulated by different physical processes. This result suggests that it is appropriate to decouple the treatment of the shock propagation from the unknown mechanism that triggers the explosion.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access Paper
Van Dyk, S. D.0000-0001-9038-9950
Tanaka, M.0000-0002-5011-5178
Filippenko, A. V.0000-0003-3460-0103
Cenko, S. B.0000-0003-1673-970X
de Jaeger, T.0000-0001-6069-1139
Moriya, T. J.0000-0003-1169-1954
Nomoto, K.0000-0001-9553-0685
Perley, D. A.0000-0001-8472-1996
Shivvers, I.0000-0003-3373-8047
Additional Information:© 2018 Macmillan. Received: 18 July 2017. Accepted: 07 November 2017. Published online: 21 February 2018. We are grateful to P. Brown for providing information about the photometry of the early Swift/UVOT data of SN 2006aj. M.C.B. acknowledges support from the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT) through grant PICT-2015-3083 ‘Progenitores de Supernovas de Colapso Gravitatorio’ and from the Munich Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics (MIAPP) of the DFG cluster of excellence ‘Origin and Structure of the Universe’. M.C.B., G.F. and O.G.B. acknowledge support from grant PIP-2015-2017-11220150100746CO of CONICET ‘Estrellas Binarias y Supernovas’. G.F. further acknowledges support from ANPCyT grant PICT-2015-2734 ‘Nacimiento y Muerte de Estrellas Masivas: Su relación con el Medio Interestelar’. K.M. acknowledges support from JSPS KAKENHI grant 17H02864. Partial support for this work was provided by NASA through programmes GO-14115 and AR-14295 from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by AURA, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. M.O. acknowledges support from grant PI UNRN40B531. A.V.F. is also grateful for financial assistance from the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, the TABASGO Foundation and the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science (University of California Berkeley). We thank the University of California Berkeley undergraduate students S. Channa, G. Halevy, A. Halle, M. de Kouchkovsky, J. Molloy, T. Ross, S. Stegman and S. Yunus for their effort in collecting Lick/Nickel data, and T.d.J. for help with some of the Keck observations. The Lick and Keck Observatory staff provided excellent assistance. A major upgrade of the Kast spectrograph on the Shane 3-m telescope at Lick Observatory was made possible through gifts from William and Marina Kast as well as the Heising-Simons Foundation. Research at Lick Observatory is partially supported by a gift from Google. KAIT and its on-going operation were made possible by donations from Sun Microsystems, Inc., the Hewlett-Packard Company, AutoScope Corporation, Lick Observatory, the NSF, the University of California, the Sylvia and Jim Katzman Foundation and the TABASGO Foundation. Some of the data presented here were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA; the observatory was made possible by financial support from the W. M. Keck Foundation. O.G.B. is a member of the Carrera del Investigador Científico de la Comisión de Investigaciones Científicas de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (CIC), Argentina. Author Contributions: M.C.B., hydrodynamical models and interpretation. G.F., supernova and pre-supernova data analysis and interpretation. F.G., supernova data analysis and interpretation. S.V.D.D., supernova and pre-supernova data analysis and interpretation. O.G.B., binary evolution models. M.O., early data comparisons. M.T. and K.M., shock-breakout interpretation. V.B., supernova discovery. J.L.S., early supernova observations. A.V.F., Lick and Keck Observatory data and paper editing. W.Z., T.G.B., T.d.J., I.S., S.K. and N.S., observations and reductions. T.J.M., circumstellar material interpretation. K.N., pre-supernova models. S.B.C. and D.A.P., spectral reductions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT)PICT-2015-3083
Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT)PIP-2015-2017-11220150100746CO
Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT)PICT-2015-2734
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)17H02864
NASANAS 5-26555
Christopher R. Redlich FundPI UNRN40B531
Miller Institute for Basic Research in ScienceUNSPECIFIED
William and Marina KastUNSPECIFIED
Heising-Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Sun Microsystems, Inc.UNSPECIFIED
Hewlett-Packard CompanyUNSPECIFIED
AutoScope CorporationUNSPECIFIED
University of CaliforniaUNSPECIFIED
Sylvia and Jim Katzman FoundationUNSPECIFIED
W. M. Keck FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:7693
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180227-082842266
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:84962
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:28 Feb 2018 00:41
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 21:11

Repository Staff Only: item control page