Thesis Topic: Evolution of SN 1987A


Thesis Supervisor: Bruno Leibundgut




The explosion of the nearest supernova in 400 years has been followed with unprecedented detail for the past 25 years. SN 1987A has an unbroken record of imaging and spectroscopic observations and continues to provide new surprises. It is the only supernova in which the inner ejecta have been spatially resolved and the interaction with a circumstellar ring observed. The energy budget of the various emission zones can be followed and the complex interaction disentangled. This has led to the first direct evidence of an asymmetric explosion mechanism and possibly hints at the nucleosynthetic production sites. The geometry of the ring has been established fairly well, but the destruction of the ring structure by the supernova shock will be observed in the coming years.

The goal of this project is to separately monitor the brightness evolution of the ring and the inner ejecta. The shock has been traced accurately with spectroscopic observations, but there remain many different features unexplained. The data set consists in monitoring data from near-infrared imaging and spectroscopy from the VLT and optical imaging and spectroscopy from HST. The detailed evolution of the individual components in this supernova can be traced for over a decade with unprecedented detail provide information on the distribution of newly synthesized material, the explosion mechanism and the structure of outer ejecta as well as the pre-explosion wind.

Return to list of thesis topics