A Spitzer survey for dust in type IIn supernovae

Ori D. Fox, Roger A. Chevalier, Michael F. Skrutskie, Alicia M. Soderberg, Alexei V. Filippenko, Mohan Ganeshalingam, Jeffrey M. Silverman, Nathan Smith, Thea N. Steele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Recent observations suggest that Type IIn supernovae (SNe IIn) may exhibit late-time (>100days) infrared (IR) emission from warm dust more than other types of core-collapse SNe. Mid-IR observations, which span the peak of the thermal spectral energy distribution, provide useful constraints on the properties of the dust and, ultimately, the circumstellar environment, explosion mechanism, and progenitor system. Due to the low SN IIn rate (<10% of all core-collapse SNe), few IR observations exist for this subclass. The handful of isolated studies, however, show late-time IR emission from warm dust that, in some cases, extends for five or six years post-discovery. While previous Spitzer/IRAC surveys have searched for dust in SNe, none have targeted the Type IIn subclass. This paper presents results from a warm Spitzer/IRAC survey of the positions of all 68 known SNe IIn within a distance of 250Mpc between 1999 and 2008 that have remained unobserved by Spitzer more than 100days post-discovery. The detection of late-time emission from 10 targets (15%) nearly doubles the database of existing mid-IR observations of SNe IIn. Although optical spectra show evidence for new dust formation in some cases, the data show that in most cases the likely origin of the mid-IR emission is pre-existing dust, which is continuously heated by optical emission generated by ongoing circumstellar interaction between the forward shock and circumstellar medium. Furthermore, an emerging trend suggests that these SNe decline at 1000-2000days post-discovery once the forward shock overruns the dust shell. The mass-loss rates associated with these dust shells are consistent with luminous blue variable progenitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


  • circumstellar matter
  • dust, extinction
  • infrared: stars
  • stars: mass-loss
  • stars: winds, outflows
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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