On the interpretation of supernova light echo profiles and spectra

A. Rest, B. Sinnott, D. L. Welch, R. J.F. Foley, G. Narayan, K. Mandel, M. E. Huber, S. Blondin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The light echo (LE) systems of historical supernovae in the Milky Way and local group galaxies provide an unprecedented opportunity to reveal the effects of asymmetry on observables, particularly optical spectra. Scattering dust at different locations on the LE ellipsoid witnesses the supernova from different perspectives, and the light consequently scattered toward Earth preserves the shape of line profile variations introduced by asymmetries in the supernova photosphere. However, the interpretation of supernova LE spectra to date has not involved a detailed consideration of the effects of outburst duration and geometrical scattering modifications due to finite scattering dust filament dimension, inclination, and image point-spread function and spectrograph slit width. In this paper, we explore the implications of these factors and present a framework for future-resolved supernova LE spectra interpretation, and test it against Cas A and SN 1987A LE spectra. We conclude that the full modeling of the dimensions and orientation of the scattering dust using the observed LEs at two or more epochs is critical for the correct interpretation of LE spectra. Indeed, without doing so one might falsely conclude that differences exist when none are actually present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ISM: individual objects (SN 1987A, Cas A)
  • ISM: supernova remnants
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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