This award will fund a combined observational and theoretical study of luminous blue variables, which are massive stars experiencing strong mass loss and evolving to be red supergiants. They are widely believed to the progenitors of core-collapse supernovae, but many of these may not explode if the mass lost during their lifetimes is high enough. This team will conduct long-term observations of these variables in several nearby galaxies, in order to get an improved census of these objects, elucidate the mechanisms that may be responsible for giant eruptions, and to better understand the mechanism of mass loss and how stars evolve as they experience episodic (rather than steady) mass loss.

Modern supernova surveys are finding a number objects in nearby galaxies which are not true supernovae, the "supernova impostors," which may be objects like eta Carinae that shed 10-20 times the mass of our Sun in a few years. The final stages of these most massive stars are important for a valid picture of stellar astrophysics and they are increasingly significant in cosmology. They are the likely progenitors of Gamma Ray Bursters used as cosmological probes, and many of the first stars in the universe are thought to have been very massive.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1108890
Program Officer
Maria Womack
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-08-01
Budget End
2014-07-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$62,096
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Illinois at Springfield
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Springfield
State
IL
Country
United States
Zip Code
62703