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Superluminous supernovae - cosmic origins and evolution

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A rare type of supernovae have been found in recent wide field surveys that are 20-100 times brighter than normal thermonuclear and core-collapse supernovae. The origin of this remarkable luminosity is not yet firmly established and there are currently three competing theories, all involving massive stars. The leading model that best matches the various observational constraints is a supernova powered by a rapidly spinning magnetic neutron star. Accretion onto a black hole formed after core collapse provides similar energy output. The explosions appear to exclusively occur in dwarf galaxies, indicating that their progenitor stars are of low metallicity. I will discuss recent results from Pan-STARRS, PESSTO and other surveys and show how these supernovae are being used as novel probes of the high redshift universe.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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