Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Dates: Oct 2016-Sep 2019
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.
Dates: Oct 2011-Sep 2016
Summary: Supernovae are the most violent explosions in the Universe, associated with the deaths of particular types of star. They constitute one of the most important and rapidly changing fields of study in modern astronomy, despite humanity having observed supernovae in our galaxy for thousands of years.
These violent explosions are so bright they can outshine entire galaxies of stars and can be observed across the Universe. Supernovae are the mechanism through which the heavy elements (heavier than hydrogen and helium) are distributed in the Universe, to give rise to new generations of stars, planets and, ultimately, life.
Key to our understanding of the nature of supernovae is the underlying explosion mechanism. The explosion mechanism dictates the brightness and chemistry of the explosion, but only lasts for a few seconds. By studying the nature of the explosion mechanism, we can explore the behaviour of matter and light at the highest energies and densities in the highest magnetic and gravitational fields. We cannot replicate such conditions on Earth, so observations of supernovae are the only way to understand how physics behaves in such extreme environments.
Despite the wealth of different theoretical models that attempt to explain exploding stars, we still do not know how stars explode at end of their lives. The key observations, made as part of this project, attempt to settle the debate once and for all: by observing the stars just before they explode as supernovae and then studying the imprint of the explosion mechanism on the geometry of the subsequent supernovae. This project utilises advanced observational facilities, such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope.