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Studying the environment of extreme supernovae

Project Description

Supernovae (SNe), stellar explosions staging the final act of a star’s life, play an important role in many astrophysical domains, for instance stellar evolution, feedback in galaxy formation, synthesis and distribution of almost all the elements and raw materials for both star and planet formation.
The last ten years, with the advent of wide-field surveys, have opened up a new parameter space in time-domain astronomy with the surprising discovery of transients defying our understanding of how stars explode. These can be grouped into three categories: 1– a population of ultra-bright ‘superluminous’ supernovae, some 100 times brighter than classical supernova types, offering new probes of the high redshift universe and the potential for a new class of standard candle; 2 – transients showing fast rise and subsequent rapid decay that do not resemble any common class of extragalactic transient; 3 – transients with extreme energetics or complex evolution happening in low-metallicity or low-luminosity environments.

The consensus is that metallicity, initial mass and multiplicity influence the type of SN we observe but their precise role has not been characterised. This impedes our ability to use SN as probes of star formation across the Universe and to understand if the progenitor metallicity is encoded within the mass and explosion mechanism of such extreme supernovae. Detailed analyses of the hosts of such SNe, both in their local (supernova position) and global (host galaxy as a whole) environment have generally been restricted to a few, usually luminous, host galaxies.

In this project, the PhD student will gather knowledge of supernova explosions linked to the environment properties as well as programming skills in python, experience in observational astronomy and statistics.

This project will be funded by the STFC.
Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Astronomy with a start date of 1st October 2020.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project. If you are applying for more than one project, please list the individual titles of the projects in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select ’I will be applying for a scholarship/grant’ and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the STFC.

Applicants will need to submit the following documents with their application:
- post high school certificates and transcripts to date
- academic CV
- personal statement
- two academic references. Your references can either be uploaded with your application, or emailed by the referee to or

Funding Notes

Funding Notes
Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

You should have obtained, or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree in Physics , or a related subject, Alternatively, applicants with equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK will also be considered. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree.
Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS)


Observational properties of extreme supernovae - Nature Astronomy, Volume 3, p. 697-705
New regimes in the observation of core-collapse supernovae - Nature Astronomy, Volume 3, p. 717-724

How good is research at Cardiff University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 19.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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