We report on new VLT optical spectroscopic and multiwavelength archival observations of SN 1996cr, a previously identified ultraluminous X-ray source known as Circinus galaxy X-2. Our optical spectrum confirms SN 1996cr as a bona fide Type IIn supernova, while archival imaging from the Anglo-Australian Telescope archive isolates the explosion date to between 1995 February 28 and 1996 March 16. SN 1996cr is one of the closest SNe (approximate to 3.8 Mpc) in the last several decades, and in terms of flux ranks among the brightest radio and X-ray SNe ever detected. The wealth of optical, X-ray, and radio observations that exist for this source provide relatively detailed constraints on its postexplosion expansion and progenitor history, including a preliminary angular size constraint from VLBI. Archival X-ray and radio data imply that the progenitor of SN 1996cr evacuated a large cavity just prior to exploding: the blast wave likely spent similar to 1-2 yr in relatively uninhibited expansion before eventually striking the dense circumstellar material which surrounds SN 1996cr. The X-ray and radio emission, which trace the progenitor mass-loss rate, have respectively risen by a factor of greater than or similar to 2 and remained roughly constant over the past 7 years. This behavior is reminiscent of the late rise of SN 1987A, but 1000 times more luminous and much more rapid to onset. SN 1996cr may likewise provide us with a younger example of SN 1978K and SN 1979C, both of which exhibit flat X-ray evolution at late times. Complex oxygen line emission hints at a possible concentric shell or ringlike structure. The discovery of SN 1996cr suggests that a substantial fraction of the closest SNe observed in the last several decades have occurred in wind-blown bubbles, and argues for the phenomena being widespread.
|Number of pages||25|
|Publication status||Published - 2008|