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R. M. Quimby, F. Castro (U Texas), C. L. Gerardy (Imperial College, London), P. Hoeflich, S. J. Kannappan, P. Mondol, M. Sellers, J. C. Wheeler (U Texas)
ROTSE-IIIb is one four robotic telescopes built by the University of Michigan to observe the prompt optical afterglows associated with gamma-ray bursts. At just 0.45m in diameter, it is the smallest research telescope at McDonald, but its 1.85 x 1.85 deg field of view and autonomous operation make it an excellent survey instrument for rare transient phenomena. We have been using ROTSE-IIIb for the past year to search for supernovae in nearby galaxy clusters such as the Virgo, Coma, and Ursa Major clusters. ROTSE-IIIb's wide field of view allows us to search the thousands of galaxies in these clusters, which cover hundreds of square degrees on the sky, in just a few tens of exposures. We can therefore observe all of these fields in a single night, and repeat the search every night. When we identify a new supernova candidate, we invoke our target of opportunity time on the neighboring 9.2m Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) the following night to obtain a spectrum. Because of the rolling search and the quick spectral turn-around possible with the HET, we are able to capture spectra of the earliest phases of the explosion. By combining this information with spectra taken at later epochs, we can construct a complete description of the explosion. Through this work we aim to better understand the physical conditions of supernova explosions, identify any systematic effects that may affect how Type Ia supernovae are calibrated as standard candles and used to probe cosmology, and also to better calibrate Type II supernovae as standard candles.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.