Observing supernovae with the Gran Telescopio Canarias

Rahman Amanullah is one of the post doc working within the Oskar Klein Centre. He is currently spending a few nights observing supernovae in the Canarias so I asked him to tell me what they are up.

We are just about to finish our second night at the world’s largest optical telescope, the 10.4m Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) on the summit of the island of La Palma. For me personally, observing surely confirms that the only difference between children and scientists are the prices of their toys. The pricetag of the GTC is roughly 650000 times more than the telescope I got in the 8th grade, but on the other hand it also has about 10000 times light collecting capability.

Our original plan was to obtain spectra of very distant supernovae found in, or behind, massive galaxy clusters. These supernovae can be used to extend cosmic distance measurements, and put improved constraints on the nature of dark energy. However, the supernovae have to be of a specific type and the only way to determine this is to use some of the world’s
largest telescopes.

Unfortunately, it seems that the universe is currently in a bad mood and decided not blow up any stars in the directions where we have been searching the past few weeks.

Instead we decided to spend our precious telescope time observing the host galaxies of previous supernova explosions. By studying the where they came from we can learn more about them, and hopefully significantly improve their use distance indicators.

Gran Telescopio Canarias
Starry sky at La Palma (Canarias) - picture by Rahman Amanullah

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *