D. A. Howell

University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States

Are you D. A. Howell?

Claim your profile

Publications (265)1006.11 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present an investigation of the optical spectra of 264 low-redshift (z < 0.2) Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory, an untargeted transient survey. We focus on velocity and pseudo-equivalent width measurements of the Si II 4130, 5972, and 6355 A lines, as well those of the Ca II near-infrared (NIR) triplet, up to +5 days relative to the SN B-band maximum light. We find that a high-velocity component of the Ca II NIR triplet is needed to explain the spectrum in ~95 per cent of SNe Ia observed before -5 days, decreasing to ~80 per cent at maximum. The average velocity of the Ca II high-velocity component is ~8500 km/s higher than the photospheric component. We confirm previous results that SNe Ia around maximum light with a larger contribution from the high-velocity component relative to the photospheric component in their Ca II NIR feature have, on average, broader light curves and lower Ca II NIR photospheric velocities. We find that these relations are driven by both a stronger high-velocity component and a weaker contribution from the photospheric Ca II NIR component in broader light curve SNe Ia. We identify the presence of C II in very-early-time SN Ia spectra (before -10 days), finding that >40 per cent of SNe Ia observed at these phases show signs of unburnt material in their spectra, and that C II features are more likely to be found in SNe Ia having narrower light curves.
    08/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present photometric and spectroscopic observations of SN Hunt 248, a new supernova (SN) impostor in NGC 5806, which experienced a multi-stage outburst in May-June 2014. The initial "2014a" brightening that led to this object's discovery began with an absolute magnitude of -12, at which point the source exhibited the characteristics of a cool dense outflow, having a spectrum dominated by P-Cygni lines of Fe II, H I, and Na I, as well as strong line blanketing from metals (at the blue end). After two weeks of slow incline, the source rapidly climbed and peaked near M=-15 mag after two more weeks. During this bright "2014b" phase the source radiated a total energy of ~10^49 ergs, while the spectrum became dominated by Balmer emission and a stronger blue continuum, similar in appearance to the SN impostor SN 1997bs. Archival images of the host galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope between 1997 and 2005 have revealed a luminous and variable precursor star. Its location on the HR diagram is consistent with a massive cool hypergiant having an extremely dense wind and an Eddington ratio just below unity. At the onset of the recent 2014a brightening, however, the object became super-Eddington. The subsequent boost in luminosity during the 2014b phase is suspected to be the result of interaction between the outflow and circumstellar material. SN Hunt 248 provides the first case of a cool hypergiant undergoing a giant eruption reminiscent of outbursts from luminous blue variable (LBV) stars. This lends support to the hypothesis that some cool hypergiants, like Rho Cas, could be LBVs masquerading under a pseudo-photosphere created by their extremely dense winds. Moreover, SN Hunt 248 demonstrates that eruptions stemming from such stars can rival in peak luminosity the giant outbursts of much more massive systems like Eta Car.
    07/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Since the discovery of the unusual prototype SN 2002cx, the eponymous class of low-velocity, hydrogen-poor supernovae has grown to include at most another two dozen members identified from several heterogeneous surveys, in some cases ambiguously. Here we present the results of a systematic study of 1077 hydrogen-poor supernovae discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory, leading to nine new members of this peculiar class. Moreover we find there are two distinct subclasses based on their spectroscopic, photometric, and host galaxy properties: The "SN 2002cx-like" supernovae tend to be in later-type or more irregular hosts, have more varied and generally dimmer luminosities, have longer rise times, and lack a Ti II trough when compared to the "SN 2002es-like" supernovae. None of our objects show helium, and we counter a previous claim of two such events. We also find that these transients comprise 5.6+17-3.7% (90% confidence) of all SNe Ia, lower compared to earlier estimates. Combining our objects with the literature sample, we propose that these subclasses have two distinct physical origins.
    05/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present optical and near infrared (NIR) observations of the nearby Type Ia SN 2014J. Seventeen optical and twenty-three NIR spectra were obtained from 10 days before ($-$10d) to 10 days after (+10d) the time of maximum $B$-band brightness. The relative strengths of absorption features and their patterns of development can be compared at one day intervals throughout most of this period. Carbon is not detected in the optical spectra, but we identify CI $\lambda$ 1.0693 in the NIR spectra. We find that MgII lines with high oscillator strengths have higher initial velocities than other MgII lines. We show that the velocity differences can be explained by differences in optical depths due to oscillator strengths. The spectra of SN 2014J show it is a normal SN Ia, but many parameters are near the boundaries between normal and high-velocity subclasses. The velocities for OI, MgII, SiII, SII, CaII and FeII suggest that SN 2014J has a layered structure with little or no mixing. That result is consistent with the delayed detonation explosion models. We also report photometric observations, obtained from $-$10d to +29d, in the $UBVRIJH$ and $K_s$ bands. SN 2014J is about 3 magnitudes fainter than a normal SN Ia at the distance of M82, which we attribute to extinction in the host. The template fitting package SNooPy is used to interpret the light curves and to derive photometric parameters. Using $R_V$ = 1.46, which is consistent with previous studies, SNooPy finds that $A_V = 1.80$ for $E(B-V)_{host}=1.23 \pm 0.01$ mag. The maximum $B$-band brightness of $-19.19 \pm 0.10$ mag was reached on February 1.74 UT $ \pm 0.13$ days and the supernova had a decline parameter of $\Delta m_{15}=1.11 \pm 0.02$ mag.
    05/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present optical spectra and light curves for three hydrogen-poor super-luminous supernovae followed by the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO). Time series spectroscopy from a few days after maximum light to 100 days later shows them to be fairly typical of this class, with spectra dominated by Ca II, Mg II, Fe II and Si II, which evolve slowly over most of the post-peak photospheric phase. We determine bolometric light curves and apply simple fitting tools, based on the diffusion of energy input by magnetar spin-down, \Ni decay, and collision of the ejecta with an opaque circumstellar shell. We investigate how the heterogeneous light curves of our sample (combined with others from the literature) can help to constrain the possible mechanisms behind these events. We have followed these events to beyond 100-200 days after peak, to disentangle host galaxy light from fading supernova flux and to differentiate between the models, which predict diverse behaviour at this phase. Models powered by radioactivity require unrealistic parameters to reproduce the observed light curves, as found by previous studies. Both magnetar heating and circumstellar interaction still appear to be viable candidates. A large diversity in the luminosity in the tail phases is emerging with magnetar models failing in some cases to predict the rapid drop in flux. This would suggest either that magnetars are not responsible, or that the X-ray flux from the magnetar wind is not fully trapped. The light curve of one object shows a distinct re-brightening at around 100d after maximum light. We argue that this could result either from multiple shells of circumstellar material, or from a magnetar ionisation front breaking out of the ejecta.
    05/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present the results of a Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) archival search for blue transients which lie in the magnitude range between "normal" core-collapse and superluminous supernovae (i.e. with $-21\,{\leq}M_{R\,(peak)}\,{\leq}-19$). Of the six events found after excluding all interacting Type IIn and Ia-CSM supernovae, three (PTF09ge, 09axc and 09djl) are coincident with the centers of their hosts, one (10iam) is offset from the center, and for two (10nuj and 11glr) a precise offset can not be determined. All the central events are similar photometrically to the He-rich tidal disruption candidate PS1-10jh. Spectroscopically, PTF09ge is also He-rich, while PTF09axc and 09djl display broad hydrogen features around peak magnitude. All three central events are in low star-formation hosts, two of which are E+A galaxies. Our spectrum of the host of PS1-10jh displays similar properties. PTF10iam, the one offset event, is different photometrically and spectroscopically from the central events and its host displays a higher star formation rate. Finding no obvious evidence for AGN activity, we conclude that the three central transients likely arise from the tidal disruption of a star by a super-massive black hole. We compare the spectra of these events to TDE candidates from the literature and to the recent ASASSN-14ae, and find that all of these objects can be unified on a continuous scale of spectral properties. The accumulated evidence of this expanded sample strongly supports a tidal disruption origin for this class of nuclear transients.
    05/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present the results of a Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) archival search for blue transients which lie in the magnitude range between "normal" core-collapse and superluminous supernovae (i.e. with $-21\,{\leq}M_{R\,(peak)}\,{\leq}-19$). Of the six events found after excluding all interacting Type IIn and Ia-CSM supernovae, three (PTF09ge, 09axc and 09djl) are coincident with the centers of their hosts, one (10iam) is offset from the center, and for two (10nuj and 11glr) a precise offset can not be determined. All the central events are similar photometrically to the He-rich tidal disruption candidate PS1-10jh. Spectroscopically, PTF09ge is also He-rich, while PTF09axc and 09djl display broad hydrogen features around peak magnitude. All three central events are in low star-formation hosts, two of which are E+A galaxies. Our spectrum of the host of PS1-10jh displays similar properties. PTF10iam, the one offset event, is different photometrically and spectroscopically from the central events and its host displays a higher star formation rate. Finding no obvious evidence for AGN activity, we conclude that the three central transients likely arise from the tidal disruption of a star by a super-massive black hole. We compare the spectra of these events to TDE candidates from the literature and to the recent ASASSN-14ae, and find that all of these objects can be unified on a continuous scale of spectral properties. The accumulated evidence of this expanded sample strongly supports a tidal disruption origin for this class of nuclear transients.
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2014; 793(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present an extensive optical and near-infrared photometric and spectroscopic campaign of the type IIP supernova SN 2012aw. The dataset densely covers the evolution of SN 2012aw shortly after the explosion up to the end of the photospheric phase, with two additional photometric observations collected during the nebular phase, to fit the radioactive tail and estimate the $^{56}$Ni mass. Also included in our analysis is the already published \textit{Swift} UV data, therefore providing a complete view of the ultraviolet-optical-infrared evolution of the photospheric phase. On the basis of our dataset, we estimate all the relevant physical parameters of SN 2012aw with our radiation-hydrodynamics code: envelope mass $M_{env} \sim 20 M_\odot$, progenitor radius $R \sim 3 \times 10^{13}$ cm ($ \sim 430 R_\odot$), explosion energy $E \sim 1.5$ foe, and initial $^{56}$Ni mass $\sim 0.06$ $M_\odot$. These mass and radius values are reasonably well supported by independent evolutionary models of the progenitor, and may suggest a progenitor mass higher than the observational limit of $16.5 \pm 1.5 M_\odot$ of the Type IIP events.
    04/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We investigate iPTF13bvn, a core-collapse (CC) supernova (SN) in the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 5806. This object was discovered by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory very soon after the explosion and was classified as a stripped-envelope CC SN, likely of Type Ib. A possible progenitor detection in pre-explosion Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images was reported, making this the only SN Ib with such an identification. Based on photometry of the progenitor candidate and on early-time SN data, it was argued that the progenitor candidate is consistent with a single, massive Wolf-Rayet (WR) star. In this work we present follow-up multi-band light-curves and optical spectra of iPTF13bvn. We perform spectral line analysis to track the evolution of the SN ejecta, construct a bolometric light curve and perform hydrodynamical calculations to model this light curve to constrain the synthesized radioactive nickel mass and the total ejecta mass of the SN. Late-time photometry is analyzed to constrain the amount of oxygen. Furthermore, image registration of pre- and post-explosion HST images is performed. Our HST astrometry confirms the location of the progenitor candidate, and follow-up spectra securely classify iPTF13bvn as a SN Ib. Our hydrodynamical model indicates an ejecta mass of 1.9 solar masses and radioactive nickel mass of 0.05 solar masses. The model fit requires the nickel to be highly mixed in the progenitor. The late-time nebular r'-band luminosity is not consistent with predictions based on the expected oxygen nucleosynthesis in very massive stars. Our bolometric light curve of iPTF13bvn is not consistent with the previously proposed single massive WR-star progenitor scenario. The ejecta mass and the late-time oxygen emission are both significantly lower than what would be expected from a single WR progenitor with a main-sequence mass of at least 30 solar masses.
    03/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present time series photometric and spectroscopic data for the transient SN 2009ip from the start of its outburst in September 2012 until November 2013. This data was collected primarily with the new robotic capabilities of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, a specialized facility for time domain astrophysics, and includes supporting high-resolution spectroscopy from the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope, Kitt Peak National Observatory, and Gemini Observatory. Based on our nightly photometric monitoring, we interpret the strength and timing of fluctuations in the light curve as interactions between fast-moving ejecta and an inhomogeneous CSM produced by past eruptions of this massive luminous blue variable (LBV) star. Our time series of spectroscopy in 2012 reveals that, as the continuum and narrow H-alpha flux from CSM interactions declines, the broad component of H-alpha persists with SN-like velocities that are not typically seen in LBVs or SN Impostor events. At late times we find that SN 2009ip continues to decline slowly, at <0.01 magnitudes per day, with small fluctuations in slope similar to Type IIn supernovae (SNe IIn) or SN impostors, but no further LBV-like activity. The late time spectrum features broad calcium lines similar to both late time SNe and SN Impostors. In general, we find that the photometric and spectroscopic evolution of SN 2009ip is more similar to SNe IIn than either continued eruptions of an LBV star or SN Impostors. In this context, we discuss the implications for episodic mass loss during the late stages of massive star evolution.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2014; 787(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this Letter, we report the discovery of SN2014J in the nearby galaxy M82. Given its proximity, it offers the best opportunity to date to study a thermonuclear supernova over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The first set of optical, near-IR and mid-IR observations of SN2014J, orchestrated by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF), show that SN2014J is a spectroscopically normal Type Ia supernova, albeit exhibiting high-velocity features in its spectrum and heavily reddened by dust in the host galaxy. Our earliest detections start just hours after the fitted time of explosion. We use high-resolution optical spectroscopy to analyze the dense intervening material and do not detect any evolution in the resolved absorption features during the lightcurve rise. Similarly to other highly reddened Type Ia supernovae, a low value of total-to-selective extinction, Rv < 2, provides the best match to our observations. We also study pre-explosion optical and near-IR images from HST with special emphasis on the sources nearest to the SN location.
    02/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present new data for five under-luminous type II-plateau supernovae (SNe IIP), namely SN 1999gn, SN 2002gd, SN 2003Z, SN 2004eg and SN 2006ov. This new sample of low-luminosity SNe IIP (LL SNe IIP) is analyzed together with similar objects studied in the past. All of them show a flat light curve plateau lasting about 100 days, an under luminous late-time exponential tail, intrinsic colours that are unusually red, and spectra showing prominent and narrow P-Cygni lines. A velocity of the ejected material below 10^3 km/s is inferred from measurements at the end of the plateau. The 56Ni masses ejected in the explosion are very small (less than 10^-2 solar masses). We investigate the correlations among 56Ni mass, expansion velocity of the ejecta and absolute magnitude in the middle of the plateau, confirming the main findings of Hamuy (2003), according to which events showing brighter plateau and larger expansion velocities are expected to produce more 56Ni. We propose that these faint objects represent the low luminosity tail of a continuous distribution in parameters space of SNe IIP. The physical properties of the progenitors at the explosion are estimated through the hydrodynamical modeling of the observables for two representative events of this class, namely SN 2005cs and SN 2008in. We find that the majority of LL SNe IIP, and quite possibly all, originate in the core-collapse of intermediate mass stars, in the mass range 10-15 solar masses.
    01/2014;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present cosmological constraints from a joint analysis of type Ia supernova (SN Ia) observations obtained by the SDSS-II and SNLS collaborations. The data set includes several low-redshift samples (z<0.1), all 3 seasons from the SDSS-II (0.05 < z < 0.4), and 3 years from SNLS (0.2 <z < 1) and totals \ntotc spectroscopically confirmed type Ia supernovae with high quality light curves. We have followed the methods and assumptions of the SNLS 3-year data analysis except for the following important improvements: 1) the addition of the full SDSS-II spectroscopically-confirmed SN Ia sample in both the training of the SALT2 light curve model and in the Hubble diagram analysis (\nsdssc SNe), 2) inter-calibration of the SNLS and SDSS surveys and reduced systematic uncertainties in the photometric calibration, performed blindly with respect to the cosmology analysis, and 3) a thorough investigation of systematic errors associated with the SALT2 modeling of SN Ia light-curves. We produce recalibrated SN Ia light-curves and associated distances for the SDSS-II and SNLS samples. The large SDSS-II sample provides an effective, independent, low-z anchor for the Hubble diagram and reduces the systematic error from calibration systematics in the low-z SN sample. For a flat LCDM cosmology we find Omega_m=0.295+-0.034 (stat+sys), a value consistent with the most recent CMB measurement from the Planck and WMAP experiments. Our result is 1.8sigma (stat+sys) different than the previously published result of SNLS 3-year data. The change is due primarily to improvements in the SNLS photometric calibration. When combined with CMB constraints, we measure a constant dark-energy equation of state parameter w=-1.018+-0.057 (stat+sys) for a flat universe. Adding BAO distance measurements gives similar constraints: w=-1.027+-0.055.
    01/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The detailed study of nearby type Ia supernovae is critical for understanding their diversity, progenitor systems and explosion mechanisms. The type Ia supernova SN 2012fr exploded in late October 2012 in the galaxy NGC 1365, located only 18 Mpc away. SN 2012fr was caught just days after explosion, and so presents an excellent opportunity to study in detail the properties of a type Ia, and to put it into context with other nearby events. Here we present data from the LCOGT network over ~1 year, including 17 spectra from the FLOYDS robotic spectrograph. We measure light curve parameters for the supernova, and present a detailed spectroscopic analysis of this unique event.
    01/2014;
  • D. Sand, S. Valenti, I. Arcavi, D. A. Howell
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We report that a spectrum of PSN J13041770-1020012 was obtained with FLOYDS (range 320-1000nm) on Faulkes Telescope South on UT Jan 03.73 2014. The spectrum reveals it to be a Type II supernova at the redshift of the apparent host galaxy, NGC 4939 (z=0.01037). Classification was performed via supernova spectrum cross correlation using SNID (Blondin & Tonry, 2007, ApJ, 666, 1024), with the best-fitting template being SN 2005cs.
    The Astronomer's Telegram. 01/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) has deployed a global network of 1-m and 2m optical telescopes, optimized for work in time-domain astronomy. Since our scientific staff is rather small, and since network operation necessarily involves close collaborations with other astronomical institutions, we aim to extend the scientific depth and scope of the Observatory by creating a formal Science Collaboration. This poster explains the structure and membership of the Collaboration, with emphasis on the notion of Key Projects that we intend as vehicles to perform scientific programs for which LCOGT's facilities are uniquely suited, and which will have the greatest scientific impact. The general subjects of these projects are already defined (Supernovae, Extrasolar Planets, Solar System, AGN, and Stellar Astrophysics). A Collaboration-wide proposal process to be carried out in early 2014 will determine which problems within these categories will be addressed in the first round of Key Projects.
    01/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: CBET 3762 available at Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
    Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams. 12/2013;
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We present spectroscopic observations of the host galaxies of 82 low-redshift type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF). We determine star-formation rates, gas-phase/stellar metallicities, and stellar masses and ages of these objects. As expected, strong correlations between the SN Ia light-curve width (stretch) and the host age/mass/metallicity are found: fainter, faster-declining events tend to be hosted by older/massive/metal-rich galaxies. There is some evidence that redder SNe Ia explode in higher metallicity galaxies, but we found no relation between the SN colour and host galaxy extinction based on the Balmer decrement, suggesting that the colour variation of these SNe does not primarily arise from this source. SNe Ia in higher-mass/metallicity galaxies also appear brighter after stretch/colour corrections than their counterparts in lower mass hosts, and the stronger correlation is with gas-phase metallicity suggesting this may be the more important variable. We also compared the host stellar mass distribution to that in galaxy targeted SN surveys and the high-redshift untargeted Supernova Legacy Survey (SNLS). SNLS has many more low mass galaxies, while the targeted searches have fewer. This can be explained by an evolution in the galaxy stellar mass function, coupled with a SN delay-time distribution proportional to $t^{-1}$. Finally, we found no significant difference in the mass--metallicity relation of our SN Ia hosts compared to field galaxies, suggesting any metallicity effect on the SN Ia rate is small.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 11/2013; · 5.52 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: CBET 3696 available at Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
    Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams. 11/2013;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: CBET 3704 available at Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
    Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams. 11/2013;

Publication Stats

3k Citations
1,006.11 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2010–2014
    • University of California, Santa Barbara
      • Department of Physics
      Santa Barbara, California, United States
    • Weizmann Institute of Science
      • Faculty of Physics
      Israel
  • 2013
    • University of Southampton
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Southampton, England, United Kingdom
    • The Nordic Optical Telescope
      Santa Cruz, Canary Islands, Spain
  • 2009–2013
    • Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network
      Goleta, California, United States
    • University of Chicago
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 1999–2013
    • University of Texas at Austin
      • Department of Astronomy
      Austin, Texas, United States
  • 2012
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Department of Astronomy
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 2011
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
    • University of Oxford
      • Department of Physics
      Oxford, England, United Kingdom
  • 2004–2009
    • University of Toronto
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2002–2008
    • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
      Berkeley, California, United States