Revealing the Identities of Thermonuclear Scenarios Using the Ultraviolet, Optical, and Infrared (UVOIR) Light Curves of Type-Ia Supernovae


Thermonuclear, or Type-Ia, supernovae (SNeIa) are one of the premier probes of cosmology. During a supernova, 20–60% of a white dwarf’s mass is fused into a single radioactive isotope (56Ni) in just a few seconds. The ensuing 56Ni→56Co→56Fe decay chain powers a bright optical display that can be about 5 billion times brighter than the Sun. But clues that reveal the identity of the progenitor systems, and the physical conditions that govern these explosions, remain elusive.

These beacons of the Cosmos are governed by nuclear physics processes. However, most observations of these objects have been made at ultraviolet, optical, and infrared (UVOIR) wavelengths. These low-energy photons are reprocessed nuclear radiation. Light curves summarize the time-evolution of the photons that escape these cataclysmic events, and critical information may be encoded within them that reveals their identities.

Over the next decade, tens of thousands of SNeIa are expected to be detected and monitored by both ground- and space-based instruments, and across a broad range of wavelengths. The critical new information they will provide will transform astrophysics, and our understanding of these enigmatic objects.

Our goal is to use UVOIR light curves to characterize their defining characteristics, identify subclasses (if any), and ultimately the physics that governs them. This project will define and evaluate classification schemes for SNeIa using light curves at different wavelengths, and evaluate which metrics provide the most information content.


Total project length: 175 hours.

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