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One Shell, Two Shell, Red Shell, Blue Shell: Numerical Modeling to Characterize the Circumstellar Environments of Type I Supernovae


Though fundamental to our understanding of stellar, galactic, and cosmic evolution, the stellar explosions known as supernovae (SNe) remain mysterious. We know that mass loss and mass transfer are central processes in the evolution of a star to the supernova event, particularly for thermonuclear Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), which are in a close binary system. The circumstellar environment (CSE) contains a record of the mass lost from the progenitor system in the centuries prior to explosion and is therefore a key diagnostic of SN progenitors. Unfortunately, tools for studying the CSE are specialized to stellar winds rather than the more complicated and violent mass-loss processes hypothesized for SN Ia progenitors.

This thesis presents models for constraining the properties of a CSE detached from the stellar surface. In such cases, the circumstellar material (CSM) may not be observed until interaction occurs and dominates the SN light weeks or even months after maximum light. I suggest we call SNe with delayed interaction SNe X;n (i.e. SNe Ia;n, SNe Ib;n). I per- formed numerical hydrodynamic simulations and radiation transport calculations to study the evolution of shocks in these systems. I distilled these results into simple equations that translate radio luminosity into a physical description of the CSE. I applied my straightfor- ward procedure to derive upper limits on the CSM for three SNe Ia: SN 2011fe, SN 2014J, and SN 2015cp. I modeled interaction to late times for the SN Ia;n PTF11kx; this led to my participation in the program that discovered interaction in SN 2015cp. Finally, I ex- panded my simulations to study the Type Ib;n SN 2014C, the first optically-confirmed SN X;n with a radio detection. My SN 2014C models represent the first time an SN X;n has been simultaneous modeled in the x-ray and radio wavelengths.

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