Physics Colloquium: Dr Steve Fossey (UCL)

Start: Mar 12, 2014 04:00 PM
End: Mar 12, 2014 06:00 PM


'On Supernovae and Serendipity'

Date: Weds 12th March

Time: 4pm

Location: The lecture will take place in the Cruciform B404 LT 2

Tickets: This event is free and open to the public, however non-UCL attendees must register for this event. To register click here


The luminous, explosive events which we call Type Ia supernovae arise from the thermonuclear runaway explosion of an entire white-dwarf star. They are the key to measuring accurate distances to remote galaxies in the Universe, and investigating the so-called dark energy that is thought to drive its accelerating expansion. The appearance of a Type Ia supernova amongst the galaxies of our immediate cosmic neighbourhood is also rather rare, typically one being found every few decades.

Hence, the discovery on January 21, 2014, of a thermonuclear supernova in the nearby starburst galaxy Messier 82 is fortunate – the closest in a generation, well-timed and placed for intensive, multi-wavelength follow-up by ground-based telescopes and spacecraft observatories. It was even more serendipitous that the discovery was made during a routine undergraduate-teaching session at UCL's University of London Observatory.

I will describe the peculiar events that occurred on the night of the discovery; and reflect on how such a bright and important supernova in one of the most watched galaxies in the local galactic neighbourhood was missed for almost a week by professional surveys and amateur observers. Some early results from studies of the M82 supernova will be presented.