Bright, Months-long stellar outbursts announce the explosion of interaction-powered supernovae

Nora L. Strotjohann*, Eran O. Ofek, Avishay Gal-Yam, Rachel Bruch, Steve Schulze, Nir Shaviv, Jesper Sollerman, Alexei V. Filippenko, Ofer Yaron, Christoffer Fremling, Jakob Nordin, Erik C. Kool, Dan A. Perley, Anna Y.Q. Ho, Yi Yang, Yuhan Yao, Maayane T. Soumagnac, Melissa L. Graham, Cristina Barbarino, Leonardo TartagliaKishalay De, Daniel A. Goldstein, David O. Cook, Thomas G. Brink, Kirsty Taggart, Lin Yan, Ragnhild Lunnan, Mansi Kasliwal, Shri R. Kulkarni, Peter E. Nugent, Frank J. Masci, Philippe Rosnet, Scott M. Adams, Igor Andreoni, Ashot Bagdasaryan, Eric C. Bellm, Kevin Burdge, Dmitry A. Duev, Alison Dugas, Sara Frederick, Samantha Goldwasser, Matthew Hankins, Ido Irani, Viraj Karambelkar, Thomas Kupfer, Jingyi Liang, James D. Neill, Michael Porter, Reed L. Riddle, Yashvi Sharma, Phil Short, Francesco Taddia, Anastasios Tzanidakis, Jan Van Roestel, Richard Walters, Zhuyun Zhuang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Interaction-powered supernovae (SNe) explode within an optically thick circumstellar medium (CSM) that could be ejected during eruptive events. To identify and characterize such pre-explosion outbursts, we produce forcedphotometry light curves for 196 interacting SNe, mostly of Type IIn, detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility between early 2018 and 2020 June. Extensive tests demonstrate that we only expect a few false detections among the 70,000 analyzed pre-explosion images after applying quality cuts and bias corrections. We detect precursor eruptions prior to 18 Type IIn SNe and prior to the Type Ibn SN 2019uo. Precursors become brighter and more frequent in the last months before the SN and month-long outbursts brighter than magnitude -13 occur prior to 25% (5-69%, 95% confidence range) of all Type IIn SNe within the final three months before the explosion. With radiative energies of up to 1049erg, precursors could eject ~1Mof material. Nevertheless, SNe with detected precursors are not significantly more luminous than other SNe IIn, and the characteristic narrow hydrogen lines in their spectra typically originate from earlier, undetected mass-loss events. The long precursor durations require ongoing energy injection, and they could, for example, be powered by interaction or by a continuum-driven wind. Instabilities during the neon- and oxygen-burning phases are predicted to launch precursors in the final years to months before the explosion; however, the brightest precursor is 100 times more energetic than anticipated.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number31pp
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2021

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