Multi-epoch spectropolarimetry for a sample of Type IIn Supernovae: persistent asymmetry in dusty circumstellar material

Christopher Bilinski, Nathan Smith, G. Grant Williams, Paul S. Smith, Douglas C. Leonard, Jennifer L. Hoffman, Jennifer E. Andrews, Peter Milne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We present multi-epoch spectropolarimetry and spectra for a sample of 14 Type IIn supernovae (SNe IIn). We find that after correcting for likely interstellar polarization, SNe IIn commonly show intrinsic continuum polarization of 1–3 per cent at the time of peak optical luminosity, although a few show weaker or negligible polarization. While some SNe IIn have even stronger polarization at early times, their polarization tends to drop smoothly over several hundred days after peak. We find a tendency for the intrinsic polarization to be stronger at bluer wavelengths, especially at early times. While polarization from an electron scattering region is expected to be grey, scattering of SN light by dusty circumstellar material (CSM) may induce such a wavelength-dependent polarization. For most SNe IIn, changes in polarization degree and wavelength dependence are not accompanied by changes in the position angle, requiring that asymmetric pre-SN mass loss had a persistent geometry. While 2–3 per cent polarization is typical, about 30 per cent of SNe IIn have very low or undetected polarization. Under the simplifying assumption that all SN IIn progenitors have axisymmetric CSM (i.e. disc/torus/bipolar), then the distribution of polarization values we observe is consistent with similarly asymmetric CSM seen from a distribution of random viewing angles. This asymmetry has very important implications for understanding the origin of pre-SN mass loss in SNe IIn, suggesting that it was shaped by binary interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1104-1129
Number of pages26
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024


  • polarization
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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