A type Ia supernova at the heart of superluminous transient SN 2006gy

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Science  24 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6476, pp. 415-418
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw1469

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Modeling a superluminous supernova

Superluminous supernovae can be up to 100 times brighter than normal supernovae, but there is no consensus on how such bright transients are produced. Jerkstrand et al. identified emission lines of iron in the spectrum of a superluminous supernova that appeared more than a year after the explosion. The authors explored models of several possible mechanisms, finding that only one is consistent with all the observations: a normal Type Ia supernova that interacts with a dense shell of circumstellar material. The shell must have been ejected by the progenitor star less than a century before the explosion, perhaps owing to interaction with a binary partner.

Science, this issue p. 415


Superluminous supernovae radiate up to 100 times more energy than normal supernovae. The origin of this energy and the nature of the stellar progenitors of these transients are poorly understood. We identify neutral iron lines in the spectrum of one such supernova, SN 2006gy, and show that they require a large mass of iron (≳0.3 solar masses) expanding at 1500 kilometers per second. By modeling a standard type Ia supernova hitting a shell of circumstellar material, we produce a light curve and late-time iron-dominated spectrum that match the observations of SN 2006gy. In such a scenario, common envelope evolution of a progenitor binary system can synchronize envelope ejection and supernova explosion and may explain these bright transients.

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