ASYMMETRY IN THE OUTBURST OF SN 1987A DETECTED USING LIGHT ECHO SPECTROSCOPY Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We report direct evidence for asymmetry in the early phases of SN 1987A via optical spectroscopy of five fields of its light echo system. The light echoes allow the first few hundred days of the explosion to be reobserved, with different position angles providing different viewing angles to the supernova. Light echo spectroscopy therefore allows a direct spectroscopic comparison of light originating from different regions of the photosphere during the early phases of SN 1987A. Gemini multi-object spectroscopy of the light echo fields shows fine-structure in the H-alpha line as a smooth function of position angle on the near-circular light echo rings. H-alpha profiles originating from the northern hemisphere of SN 1987A show an excess in redshifted emission and a blue knee, while southern hemisphere profiles show an excess of blueshifted H-alpha emission and a red knee. This fine-structure is reminiscent of the "Bochum event" originally observed for SN 1987A, but in an exaggerated form. Maximum deviation from symmetry in the H-alpha line is observed at position angles 16 and 186 degrees, consistent with the major-axis of the expanding elongated ejecta. The asymmetry signature observed in the H-alpha line smoothly diminishes as a function of viewing angle away from the poles of the elongated ejecta. We propose an asymmetric two-sided distribution of 56Ni most dominant in the southern far quadrant of SN 1987A as the most probable explanation of the observed light echo spectra. This is evidence that the asymmetry of high-velocity 56Ni in the first few hundred days after explosion is correlated to the geometry of the ejecta some 25 years later.

publication date

  • April 10, 2013