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Exploding Stars and Time Domain Astronomy



Exploding stars in form of Supernovae (SNe), Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) and newly discovered mysterious transients are the most powerful explosions in the Universe and their Supernova remnants (SNR) are still seen in our Milky Way. They act as both cosmic engines and cosmic factories of elements vital for life. The most common explosion type from massive stars gives birth to fascinating objects, such as black holes, neutron stars and pulsars. Because SNe and GRBs are so luminous and are seen over cosmological distances, they have been used as powerful tools for cosmology and as probes of the early Universe. Despite their importance, however, many questions about them, including which kinds of stellar systems give rise to them, remain outstanding.


Astrophysics is entering the Golden Age of innovative time-domain surveys that stand to revolutionize our understanding of the transient sky, and now is a great time to be involved. Members have access to the Las Cumbres Observatory through the Global SN project as well as UVa's access to large- and medium-sized- aperture telescopes: APO, LBT, Magellan and MMT. Other national, international and competitive facilities that we have used include, among others: ALMA, Chandra, GMRT, HST, JWST, Swift, TESS, UVA's Rivanna computing cluster, VLA, XMM-Newton - and of course in the near future: the Vera Rubin Observatory+LSST.


Here at UVa, a complimentary set of faculty and their teams are approaching these questions from many angles:

  •  Poonam Chandra (NRAO and visiting faculty at UVa) works on radio and X-ray aspects

    Poonam Chandra

  •  Shazrene Mohamed (UVa) works on simulations of the interactions and explosions of evolved stars

  • Roger Chevalier (UVa) works on theoretical aspects of supernovae

    Roger Chevalier

    •  grad student Nick James works on Superluminous SNe and interacting SNe

      Nick James

  •  Maryam Modjaz (UVa), via a Stellar Forensics investigation, works on optical & near-infrared aspects as well as the host galaxies of these explosions

    Maryam Modjaz

    •  grad student Adrian Crawford works on large-scale photometric surveys and machine learning

      Adrian Crawford

    •  grad student Noshin Yesmin works on exotic and transition SNe

      Noshing Yesmin

    •  grad student Raphael Baer-Way works on interacting supernovae through multiwavelength observations using X-ray, optical, and radio data

      Raphael Baer-Way

    •  Postdoc Sahana Kumar is an observer specializing in optical and NIR spectroscopy of supernovae and other transients

      Sahana Kumar

    •  Postdoc Craig Pellegrino is interested in observations of rare and unusual supernovae to better understand massive star evolution

      Craig Pellegrino

    • recent grad student Marc Williamson (PhD '23, NYU) works on spectral synthesis modeling, machine-learning and young spectra of SNe Ic


  • Mojgan Aghakhanloo (VITA-Origins Fellow, UVa) works on post-main sequence evolution of massive stars

    Mojgan Aghakhanloo


Apache Point Observatory (APO)