My research focuses on the final days in the life of stars and their catastrophic death in supernova explosions. I lead Harvard's Supernova Forensics research group.
For several decades, observational studies of supernova (SN) explosions have focused almost exclusively on the strong optical emission that dominates the bolometric luminosity in the days following explosion. Yet many of the leading breakthroughs in our understanding of supernovae have been enabled by observations at other wavelengths. For example, through high energy observations, we now know that about 0.1% of all core-collapse supernovae produce relativistic outflows that give rise to gamma-ray bursts. The observed neutrino release from SN 1987A confirmed theoretical models for core-collapse explosions. More recently, my serendipitous X-ray discovery of SN 2008D in the act of exploding ("in flagrante delicto") revealed a novel technique to discover new supernovae and confirmed decades-old predictions for shock breakout emission. With the advent of the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA) and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) -- the world’s most sensitive radio telescopes -- our understanding of supernovae will soon be advanced by observations at longer wavelengths. Combining unique observations in the radio and mm-band with traditional optical supernova studies leads to the holistic study of cosmic explosions, shedding light on the nature of their progenitors, the physics of the explosions, the final stages of stellar evolution, and their role in the Universe.
In particular, the Supernova Forensics team aims to:
- Map the diversity of shockwave properties and the commonality of relativistic supernovae
- Probe the mass loss histories of SN progenitors and the final stages of stellar evolution
- Provide new insight into particle acceleration through broad spectral coverage
- Conduct the most sensitive radio study of thermonuclear Type Ia supernovae