Light curves from supernova shock breakout through an extended wind

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Recent observations suggest that some supernovae may be the result of an explosion into an optically thick circumstellar material, the product of pre-explosion mass loss (wind) by the progenitor star. This scenario has been studied previously both analytically and numerically. However, many previous studies base their analysis on the diffusion approximation for radiation transfer, which is inappropriate in the optically thin outer layers of the wind. Here we study the deviations from diffusion and calculate light curves more accurately using a Monte Carlo approach to photon transfer. We distinguish between "compact" winds, for which the diffusion approximation is appropriate, and "extended" winds, which require a more delicate treatment of the radiation. We show that this effect is more significant than that of the light-travel time difference to a distant observer, which has a secondary influence on the light curves of extended-wind systems. We also comment on the applicability of the widely used flux-limited diffusion approximation in this context: we find that it generally does not reproduce the Monte Carlo results. The flux-limited diffusion approximation leads to results that are not only quantitatively but also qualitatively wrong in the extended-wind regime.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number18
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • circumstellar matter
  • radiative transfer
  • shock waves
  • stars: mass-loss
  • supernovae: general


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