Spectropolarimetry of Superluminous Supernovae: Insight into Their Geometry

C. Inserra, M. Bulla, S. A. Sim, S. J. Smartt

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We present the first spectropolarimetric observations of a hydrogen-free superluminous supernova (SLSN) at z = 0.1136, namely SN 2015bn. The transient shows significant polarization at both of the observed epochs: one 24 days before maximum light in the rest-frame, and the other at 27 days after peak luminosity. Analysis of the Q – U plane suggests the presence of a dominant axis and no physical departure from the main axis at either epoch. The polarization spectrum along the dominant axis is characterized by a strong wavelength dependence and an increase in the signal from the first to the second epoch. We use a Monte Carlo code to demonstrate that these properties are consistent with a simple toy model that adopts an axisymmetric ellipsoidal configuration for the ejecta. We find that the wavelength dependence of the polarization is possibly due to a strong wavelength dependence in the line opacity, while the higher level of polarization at the second epoch is a consequence of the increase in the asphericity of the inner layers of the ejecta or the fact that the photosphere recedes into less spherical layers. The geometry of the SLSN is similar to that of stripped-envelope core-collapse SNe connected to GRB, while the overall evolution of the ejecta shape could be consistent with a central engine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • stars: jets
  • stars: magnetars
  • stars: mass-loss
  • supernovae: general
  • supernovae: individual: SN 2015bn


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