Supernovae are the explosive deaths of stars, occurring at the end of stellar evolution for very massive stars and certain types of binary star system. They are important to a number of modern astrophysical topics: most of the heavy elements are synthesised in supernova explosions, supernovae inject energy and momentum to the interstellar medium and some classes of supernovae can be used as accurate cosmic distance indicators, making it possible to map out the expansion history of the Universe.
The current generation of astronomical surveys (including programs led from Queens) are yielding observational data of unprecedented quantity and quality. Thanks to these, we have uncovered a startling array of new and unexpected phenomena in astronomical explosions: sometimes unexpected properties of previously known classes of transient and in other cases completely new types of event. These new discoveries can test and challenge our theoretical picture and are currently driving a new wave of development and exploration of supernova theory.
Interpreting high quality observational data often requires theoretical modelling. The PhD project will focus on performing radiative transfer simulations to compute synthetic spectra and light curves from explosion models and comparing these to real observational data.
The student will learn the physical principles and computational algorithms used in Monte Carlo radiative transfer calculations and will become experienced in running and analysing the results of simulations. Depending on the student's skills/interests, the project will focus on a combination of improving the quality of the simulations and modelling of observations. The project will involve participation in international collaborations with theorists (particularly those specialising in thermonuclear supernova explosions) and supernova observers (at Queens and internationally).
Supervisor: Dr. Stuart Sim