Robert D. Gehrz

University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, Minnesota, United States

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Publications (175)443.22 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present a systematic study of mid-infrared (mid-IR) emission from 141 nearby supernovae (SNe) observed with the InfraRed Array Camera (IRAC) on the Spitzer Space Telescope. These SNe reside in one of the 190 galaxies within 20Mpc drawn from the ongoing three-year SPIRITS program. Both new SPIRITS observations and data from other programs available in the archive are used in this study. We detect 8 Type Ia SNe and 36 core-collapse SNe. All Type I SNe fade and become undetectable within 3 years of explosion. About 22±11% of Type II SNe continue to be detected at late-times with five events detected even two decades after discovery. Dust luminosity, temperature, and mass are obtained by fitting the spectral energy distributions using photometry with IRAC bands 1 and 2. The dust mass estimate is a lower limit as the dust cloud could be optically thick or there could be cooler dust hiding at longer wavelengths. The estimate also does not distinguish between pre-existing and newly produced dust. We observe warm dust masses between 10^(-2) and 10^(-6) M_☉ and dust temperatures from 200K to 1280 K. We present detailed case studies of two extreme Type II-P SNe: SN2011ja and SN 2014bi. SN 2011ja was over-luminous ([4.5] = -15.6 mag) at 900 days post-explosion accompanied by a monotonic growth of the dust mass. This suggests either an episode of dust formation similar to SN 2004et and SN 2004dj, or an intensifying CSM interactions heating up pre-existing dust. SN 2014bi showed a factor of 10 decrease in dust mass over one month suggesting either an episode of dust destruction or a fading source of dust heating. A re-brightening in the mid-IR light curve of the Type Ib SN 2014C coinciding with a rise in the dust mass indicates either an episode of dust production perhaps via CSM interactions or more pre-existing dust getting heated up by the CSM interactions. This observation adds to a small number of stripped-envelope SNe that have mid-IR excess as has been previously reported in the case of SN 2006jc. The observed dust mass and the location of the CSM interactions suggest that the CSM shell around SN 2014C is originated from an LBV-like eruption roughly 100 years before the explosion. We also report detections of SN 1974E, SN 1979C, SN1980K, SN 1986J, and SN 1993J more than 20 years post-explosion. The number of outlying SNe identified in this work demonstrates the power of late time mid-IR observations of a large sample of SNe to identify events with unusual evolution.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016
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    ABSTRACT: Spitzer observations of SN 1987A have now spanned more than a decade. Since day ~4,000, mid-infrared (mid-IR) emission has been dominated by that from shock-heated dust in the equatorial ring (ER). From 6,000 to 8,000 days after the explosion, Spitzer observations included broadband photometry at 3.6 - 24 micron, and low and moderate resolution spectroscopy at 5 - 35 micron. Here we present later Spitzer observations, through day 10,377, which include only the broadband measurements at 3.6 and 4.5 micron. These data show that the 3.6 and 4.5 micron brightness has clearly begun to fade after day ~8,500, and no longer tracks the X-ray emission as well as it did at earlier epochs. This can be explained by the destruction of the dust in the ER on time scales shorter than the cooling time for the shocked gas. We find that the evolution of the late time IR emission is also similar to the now fading optical emission. We provide the complete record of the IR emission lines, as seen by Spitzer prior to day 8,000. The past evolution of the gas as seen by the IR emission lines seems largely consistent with the optical emission, although the IR [Fe II] and [Si II] lines show different, peculiar velocity structures.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016
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    ABSTRACT: We present mid- and far- IR imaging of four famous hypergiant stars: the red supergiants $\mu$ Cep and VY CMa, and the warm hypergiants IRC +10420 and $\rho$ Cas. Our 11 to 37 $\mu$m SOFIA/FORCAST imaging probes cool dust not detected in visual and near-IR imaging studies. Adaptive optics (AO) 8 - 12 $\mu$m imaging of $\mu$ Cep and IRC +10420 with MMT/MIRAC reveals extended envelopes that are the likely sources of these stars' strong silicate emission features. We find $\mu$ Cep's mass-loss rate to have declined by about a factor of 5 over a 13,000 history, ranging from 5 $\times$ 10$^{-6}$ down to $\sim$1 $\times$ 10$^{-6}$ $M_{\odot}$ yr$^{-1}$. The morphology of VY CMa indicates a cooler dust component coincident with the highly asymmetric reflection nebulae seen in the visual and near-IR. The lack of cold dust at greater distances around VY CMa indicates its mass-loss history is limited to the last $\sim$1200 years, with an average rate of 6 $\times$ 10$^{-4}$ $M_{\odot}$ yr$^{-1}$. We find two distinct periods in the mass-loss history of IRC +10420 with a high rate of 2 $\times$ 10$^{-3}$ $M_{\odot}$ yr$^{-1}$ until approximately 2000 yr ago, followed by an order of magnitude decrease in the recent past. We interpret this change as evidence of its evolution beyond the RSG stage. Our new infrared photometry of $\rho$ Cas is consistent with emission from the expanding dust shell ejected in its 1946 eruption, with no evidence of newer dust formation from its more recent events.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · The Astronomical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Supernovae Type Iax (SNe Iax) are less energetic and less luminous than typical thermonuclear explosions. A suggested explanation for the observed characteristics of this subclass is a binary progenitor system consisting of a CO white dwarf primary accreting from a helium star companion. A single-degenerate explosion channel might be expected to result in a dense circumstellar medium (CSM), although no evidence for such a CSM has yet been observed for this subclass. Here we present recent Spitzer observations of the SN Iax 2014dt obtained by the SPIRITS program nearly one year post-explosion that reveal a strong mid-IR excess over the expected fluxes of more normal SNe Ia. This excess is consistent with 1E-5 M_solar of newly formed dust, which would be the first time that newly formed dust has been observed to form in a normal Type Ia. The excess, however, is also consistent with a dusty CSM that was likely formed in pre-explosion mass-loss, thereby suggesting a single degenerate progenitor system. Compared to other SNe Ia that show significant shock interaction (SNe Ia-CSM) and interacting core-collapse events (SNe IIn), this dust shell in SN 2014dt is less massive. We consider the implications that such a pre-existing dust shell has for the progenitor system, including a binary system with a mass donor that is a red giant, a red supergiant, and an asymptotic giant branch star.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015
  • Robert D. Gehrz · Nathan Smith · Dinesh Shenoy
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    ABSTRACT: We describe recent panchromatic imaging and spectroscopic studies of the supergiant, mass-transferring, binary star RY Scuti, which is in a brief transitional phase to become a Wolf-Rayet star and a stripped-envelope supernova.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · EAS Publications Series
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    ABSTRACT: We present pre-perihelion infrared 8 to 31 micron spectrophotometric and imaging observations of comet C/2012 K1 (Pan-STARRS), a dynamically new Oort Cloud comet, conducted with NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) facility (+FORCAST) in 2014 June. As a "new" comet (first inner solar system passage), the coma grain population may be extremely pristine, unencumbered by a rime and insufficiently irradiated by the Sun to carbonize its surface organics. The comet exhibited a weak 10 micron silicate feature ~1.18 +/- 0.03 above the underlying best-fit 215.32 +/- 0.95 K continuum blackbody. Thermal modeling of the observed spectral energy distribution indicates that the coma grains are fractally solid with a porosity factor D = 3 and the peak in the grain size distribution, a_peak = 0.6 micron, large. The sub-micron coma grains are dominated by amorphous carbon, with a silicate-to-carbon ratio of 0.80 (+0.25) (- 0.20). The silicate crystalline mass fraction is 0.20 (+0.30) (-0.10), similar to with other dynamically new comets exhibiting weak 10 micron silicate features. The bolometric dust albedo of the coma dust is 0.14 +/- 0.01 at a phase angle of 34.76 degrees, and the average dust production rate, corrected to zero phase, at the epoch of our observations was Afrho ~ 5340~cm.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We present medium resolution near-infrared (NIR) spectra, covering 1.1 to 3.4 microns, of the normal Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) SN 2014J in M82 obtained with the FLITECAM instrument aboard SOFIA approximately 17-25 days after maximum B light. Our 2.8-3.4 micron spectra may be the first ~3 micron spectra of a SN Ia ever published. The spectra spanning the 1.5-2.7 micron range are characterized by a strong emission feature at ~1.77 microns with a full width at half maximum of ~11,000-13,000 km/s. We compare the observed FLITECAM spectra to the recent non-LTE delayed detonation models of Dessart et al. (2014) and find that the models agree with the spectra remarkably well in the 1.5-2.7 micron wavelength range. Based on this comparison we identify the ~1.77 micron emission peak as a blend of permitted lines of Co II. Other features seen in the 2.0 - 2.5 micron spectra are also identified as emission from permitted transitions of Co II. However, the models are not as successful at reproducing the spectra in the 1.1 - 1.4 micron range or between 2.8 and 3.4 microns. These observations demonstrate the promise of SOFIA by allowing access to wavelength regions inaccessible from the ground, and serve to draw attention to the usefulness of the regions between the standard ground-based NIR passbands for constraining SN models.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: In this program we propose to use a total of 0.8 hr to obtain 3.6 and 4.5 micron photometry of SNR 1987A at four additional epochs beyond day 10000 after the explosion. The emission in these two IRAC bands may arise from a hot dust component residing in the equatorial ring (ER) with a distinctly different spectral shape and temperature from the dominant 180 K silicate dust component in the ER. The dust in the ER is collisionally-heated by the SN blast wave that also gives rise to the soft X-ray emission from the ER. The intensity in the mid-IR emission (24 micron) was generally well correlated with that of the X-ray emission. However, the continued monitoring of the 3.6 and 4.5 micron emission now seems to show that at these wavelengths the IR emission has begun to fade, and is no longer tracking the brightness of the soft X-ray emission. These differences could stem from a variety of causes, including the sputtering of the dust or changes in the morphology of the ER. Ongoing X-ray observations of the remnant are taking place. Supplementing these with IR observations is essential for determining the nature and the evolution of this hot dust component. Finally, the observations may still reveal the appearance of a new emission component from the SN ejecta which is currently interacting with the reverse shock. These observations will complete the record of Spitzer's observations of SN 1987A, spanning more than 12 years from launch to end of mission.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Nearby resolved dwarf galaxies provide excellent opportunities for studying the dust-producing late stages of stellar evolution over a wide range of metallicity (-2.7 < [Fe/H] < -1.0). Here, we describe DUSTiNGS (DUST in Nearby Galaxies with Spitzer): a 3.6 and 4.5 micron post-cryogen Spitzer Space Telescope imaging survey of 50 dwarf galaxies within 1.5 Mpc that is designed to identify dust-producing Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars and massive stars. The survey includes 37 dwarf spheroidal, 8 dwarf irregular, and 5 transition-type galaxies. This near-complete sample allows for the building of statistics on these rare phases of stellar evolution over the full metallicity range. The photometry is >75% complete at the tip of the Red Giant Branch for all targeted galaxies, with the exception of the crowded inner regions of IC 10, NGC 185, and NGC 147. This photometric depth ensures that the majority of the dust-producing stars, including the thermally-pulsing AGB stars, are detected in each galaxy. The images map each galaxy to at least twice the half-light radius to ensure that the entire evolved star population is included and to facilitate the statistical subtraction of background and foreground contamination, which is severe at these wavelengths. In this overview, we describe the survey, the data products, and preliminary results. We show evidence for the presence of dust-producing AGB stars in 8 of the targeted galaxies, with metallicities as low as [Fe/H] = -1.9, suggesting that dust production occurs even at low metallicity.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series
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    ABSTRACT: Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars may be the dominant stellar dust source in galaxies, potentially driving galactic chemical evolution. Specifically, the dustiest ``extreme'' AGB stars, which comprise <5% of the AGB population, provide more than 70% of the AGB-produced dust in the Magellanic Clouds (Riebel et al. 2012; Boyer et al. 2012). Despite their importance, these stars have only been studied in detail in the Magellanic Clouds, which cover a limited range in metallicity. Here, we present the first results of the DUST In Nearby Galaxies with Spitzer (DUSTINGS) post-cryogen Spitzer program. The DUSTINGS program was designed to identify and characterize these extreme AGB stars in a complete infrared census of resolvable Local Group (<2 Mpc) dwarf galaxies, which span a wide range of galactic environments. We find hundreds of extreme AGB star candidates and estimate their dust-injection rates.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014
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    ABSTRACT: In this program we propose to use a total of 0.4 hr to obtain 3.6 and 4.5 micron photometry of SNR 1987A at two additional epochs beyond day 9800 after the explosion. The emission in these two IRAC bands arises from a hot dust component residing in the equatorial ring (ER) with a distinctly different spectral shape and temperature from the dominant 180 K silicate dust component in the ER. The dust in the ER is collisionally-heated by the SN blast wave that also gives rise to the soft X-ray emission from the ER. The intensity in the IR emission is generally well correlated with that of the X-ray emission. However, the most recent X-ray observations have showed a difference in the evolution of their respective light curves. These differences could stem from a variety of causes, including the sputtering of the dust or changes in the morphology of the ER. Ongoing X-ray observations of the remnant are taking place. Supplementing these with IR observations is essential for determining the nature and the evolution of this hot dust component. Finally, the observations may reveal the appearance of a new emission component from the SN ejecta which is currently interacting with the reverse shock.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2013
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    ABSTRACT: The dynamic mid-infrared sky is hitherto largely unexplored. We propose the SPitzer InfraRed Intensive Transients Survey (SPIRITS) --- a systematic search of 242 nearby galaxies within 20 Mpc, on timescales ranging between a day to a year, to a depth of 20 mag. In preparation for SPIRITS, we undertook three pilot programs: searching the WISE data stream for variables in nearby galaxies, mining the Spitzer Heritage Archive, and Spitzer follow-up of optically discovered transients. Our results are encouraging and motivate our design of SPIRITS to fill in missing pieces in our understanding of the end points of stellar evolution. We expect to discover explosive transients (ILRT, LRN, CNe, SNe), eruptive variables (LBV, RSG, YSG, AGB, RSG) and possibly new phenomena. SPIRITS will be the definitive study to ascertain the rate and origin of two new classes of red gap transients, quantify the contribution of classical novae to galactic chemical evolution and uncover supernovae buried in starbursts. SPIRITS will also systematically probe mass loss rates and dust formation in the most massive stars. SPIRITS will yield a census of supergiant variability and asymptotic giant branch variability in diverse galaxy environments. SPIRITS will likely discover the first extragalactic 'Born Again Giant' stars. The SPIRITS team is committed to a concomitant ground-based NIR and optical survey and extensive, panchromatic follow-up: 110 nights of near-IR imaging, 66 nights of optical imaging and 60 nights of spectroscopy annually. Follow-up will serve to maximize the discovery potential of our requested 994 hrs of Spitzer/IRAC observing time. We believe it is time that the Spitzer Great Observatory add another time-domain jewel in its crown.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2013
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    ABSTRACT: In this program we propose to use a total of 0.4 hr to obtain 3.6 and 4.5 micron photometry of SNR 1987A at two additional epochs beyond day 9500 after the explosion. The emission in these two IRAC bands arises from a hot dust component residing in the equatorial ring (ER) with a distinctly different spectral shape and temperature from the dominant 180 K silicate dust component in the ER. The dust in the ER is collisionally-heated by the SN blast wave that also gives rise to the soft X-ray emission from the ER. The intensity in the IR emission is generally well correlated with that of the X-ray emission. However, the most recent X-ray observations have showed a difference in the evolution of their respective light curves. These differences could stem from a variety of causes, including the sputtering of the dust or changes in the morphology of the ER. Ongoing X-ray observations of the remnant are taking place. Supplementing these with IR observations is essential for determining the nature and the evolution of this hot dust component. Finally, the observations may reveal the appearance of a new emission component from the SN ejecta which is currently interacting with the reverse shock.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2012
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    ABSTRACT: We present Spitzer Space Telescope mid-infrared IRS spectra, supplemented by ground-based optical observations, of the classical novae V1974 Cyg, V382 Vel, and V1494 Aql more than 11, 8, and 4 years after outburst respectively. The spectra are dominated by forbidden emission from neon and oxygen, though in some cases, there are weak signatures of magnesium, sulfur, and argon. We investigate the geometry and distribution of the late time ejecta by examination of the emission line profiles. Using nebular analysis in the low density regime, we estimate lower limits on the abundances in these novae. In V1974 Cyg and V382 Vel, our observations confirm the abundance estimates presented by other authors and support the claims that these eruptions occurred on ONe white dwarfs. We report the first detection of neon emission in V1494 Aql and show that the system most likely contains a CO white dwarf.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Recent infrared (IR) observations of freshly formed dust in supernova remnants have yielded significantly lower dust masses than predicted by theoretical models and measured from high-redshift observations. The Crab Nebula's pulsar wind is thought to be sweeping up freshly formed supernova (SN) dust along with the ejected gas. The evidence for this dust was found in the form of an IR excess in the integrated spectrum of the Crab and in extinction against the synchrotron nebula that revealed the presence of dust in the filament cores. We present the first spatially resolved emission spectra of dust in the Crab Nebula acquired with the Infrared Spectrograph on board the Spitzer Space Telescope. The IR spectra are dominated by synchrotron emission and show forbidden line emission from S, Si, Ne, Ar, O, Fe, and Ni. We derived a synchrotron spectral map from the 3.6 and 4.5 μm images, and subtracted this contribution from our data to produce a map of the residual continuum emission from dust. The dust emission appears to be concentrated along the ejecta filaments and is well described by an amorphous carbon or silicate grain compositions. We find a dust temperature of 55 ± 4 K for silicates and 60 ± 7 K for carbon grains. The total estimated dust mass is (1.2-12) × 10–3M ☉, well below the theoretical dust yield predicted for a core-collapse supernova. Our grain heating model implies that the dust grain radii are relatively small, unlike what is expected for dust grains formed in a Type IIP SN.
    Full-text · Article · May 2012 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Presolar grains in meteorites and interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) carry non-solar isotopic signatures pointing to origins in supernovae, giant stars, and possibly other stellar sources. There have been suggestions that some of these grains condensed in the ejecta of classical nova outbursts, but the evidence is ambiguous. We report neon and helium compositions in particles captured on stratospheric collectors flown to sample materials from comets 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup and 55P/Tempel-Tuttle that point to condensation of their gas carriers in the ejecta of a neon (ONe) nova. The absence of detectable 3He in these particles indicates space exposure to solar wind (SW) irradiation of a few decades at most, consistent with origins in cometary dust streams. Measured 4He/20Ne, 20Ne/22Ne, 21Ne/22Ne and 20Ne/21Ne isotope ratios, and a low upper limit on 3He/4He, are in accord with calculations of nucleosynthesis in neon nova outbursts. Of these, the uniquely low 4He/20Ne and high 20Ne/22Ne ratios are the most diagnostic, reflecting the large predicted 20Ne abundances in the ejecta of such novae. The correspondence of measured Ne and He compositions in cometary matter with theoretical predictions is evidence for the presence of presolar grains from novae in the early solar system.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Binary mass transfer via Roche-lobe overflow (RLOF) is a key channel for producing stripped-envelope Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars and may be critical to account for SN Ib/c progenitors. RY Scuti is an extremely rare example of a massive binary star caught in this brief but important phase. Its toroidal nebula indicates equatorial mass loss during RLOF, while the mass-gaining star is apparently embedded in an opaque accretion disk. RY Scuti's toroidal nebula has two components: an inner ionised double-ring system, and an outer dust torus that is twice the size of the ionised rings. We present two epochs of Lband Keck NGS-AO images of the dust torus, plus three epochs of HST images of the ionised gas rings. Proper motions show that the inner ionised rings and the outer dust torus came from two separate ejection events roughly 130 and 250 yr ago. This suggests that RLOF in massive contact binaries can be accompanied by eruptive and episodic burst of mass loss, reminiscent of LBVs. We speculate that the repeating outbursts may arise in the mass gainer from instabilities associated with a high accretion rate. If discrete mass-loss episodes in other RLOF binaries are accompanied by luminous outbursts, they might contribute to the population of extragalactic optical transients. When RLOF ends for RY Scuti, the overluminous mass gainer, currently surrounded by an accretion disk, will probably become a B[e] supergiant and may outshine the hotter mass-donor star that should die as a Type Ib/c supernova.
    Preview · Article · May 2011 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Highly evolved stars (massive stars and intermediate-mass Asymptotic Giant Branch -or AGB- stars) can become heavily enshrouded in dust. This material is ejected into the interstellar medium (ISM), driving galactic chemical evolution. The dwarf galaxies of the Local Group (LG) are ideal laboratories for studying dusty evolved stars since their stellar populations are resolvable and they span a wide range in metallicity, luminosity, star formation history, ISM content, and interaction history. The majority of known resolvable LG dwarf galaxies (d < 2 Mpc) remains unobserved with IRAC or were observed with inadequate areal coverage and/or depth for detecting the dusty stellar population. We propose to complete a uniform census of LG dwarf galaxies with IRAC that is designed to detect and characterize the circumstellar dust around evolved stars, especially those obscured in optical and near-infrared surveys. The dust-producing phase is brief, so it is rare in low-luminosity dwarf galaxies. We must therefore observe a complete sample of dwarf galaxies to build equivalent statistics at each metallicity. Our immediate science goals are to (1) analyze dust content and mass loss in AGB stars, (2) generate intermediate-age star formation histories using AGB stars, (3) analyze the infrared properties of massive evolved stars, and (4) use this survey as a pathfinder for JWST science. These observations and the resulting database will leave a valuable and lasting Spitzer legacy.
    No preview · Article · May 2011
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    ABSTRACT: The cryogenic Spitzer campaign to monitor the evolution of SNR 1987A has succeeding in revealing a steady change in the brightness of emission from silicate dust in equatorial ring (ER) of the SN progenitor. The change in brightness is well-correlated with the X-ray emission. However, the Spitzer IRAC and IRS data unexpectedly revealed at second hotter dust component. The spectra did not provide a distinct spectroscopic signature of this dust, but the time series of observations indicated that it may be evolving at a slightly different rate from the dominant silicate component. In this program we will use a total of 0.4 hr to obtain 3.6 and 4.5 micron photometry of SNR 1987A at two additional epochs. The initial warm observation has revealed a definite flattening of the light curve at these wavelengths. Presently, we lack sufficient information to identify the physical processes responsible for this trend. The requested observations will reveal the long-term behavior of the light curve which may even show the onset of a decline. The continued evolution of this hot dust component will provide important and unique information on the nature and fate of this dust component, and on the origin and morphology of the ER.
    No preview · Article · May 2011
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    ABSTRACT: We request DDT observations of the recurrent nova T Pyx, whose 2011 eruption was long overdue. Spitzer/IRAC observations at 3.6 and 4.5 microns will complement the 1-2.5 micron data we are getting from the ground, and the >50 micron data we are getting from Herschel (DDT approved). For the first time we will get infra-red data on an erupting nova from 1-100 microns, throwing new and unique insight into the evolution of a recurrent nova.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2011

Publication Stats

3k Citations
443.22 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1990-2015
    • University of Minnesota Duluth
      • Department of Physics
      Duluth, Minnesota, United States
  • 2003-2004
    • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
      • School of Physics and Astronomy
      Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
  • 1997
    • Space Telescope Science Institute
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 1974-1987
    • University of Wyoming
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Ларами, Wyoming, United States
  • 1981
    • University of Texas at Austin
      Austin, Texas, United States