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Hunting for Hidden Explosions: Exploring the Transient Infrared Sky with the Spitzer Space Telescope


Jencson, Jacob Edmund (2020) Hunting for Hidden Explosions: Exploring the Transient Infrared Sky with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Y9H7-XA93.


The study of time-variable astronomical phenomena is undergoing an explosive renaissance ushered in by recent advancements in capabilities to monitor the sky from radio to gamma rays. The infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum provides a unique window to uncover a vast array of stellar eruptions and explosions that are otherwise obscured; however, the dynamic infrared sky has remained largely unexplored.

To uncover these hidden cosmic explosions, I undertook a systematic search in the infrared with the Spitzer Space Telescope called SPIRITS — the SPitzer InfraRed Intensive Transients Survey. Targeting a specially chosen sample of nearby galaxies, the search revealed a bounty of exceptionally red events, and may have discovered entirely new and diverse populations, including deeply embedded supernovae, catastrophic stellar mergers, and giant eruptions of massive, violently unstable stars. Providing a first census of stellar infrared transients, SPIRITS has paved the way for new and upcoming surveys to further expand our exploration of the dynamic infrared sky.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Time-domain astrophysics; transients; stars; infrared; supernovae
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Astrophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kasliwal, Mansi M.
Group:Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Steidel, Charles C. (chair)
  • Kasliwal, Mansi M.
  • Phinney, E. Sterl
  • Soifer, B. Thomas
  • Hallinan, Gregg W.
Defense Date:24 September 2019
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Science Foundation Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1144469
Projects:SPitzer InfraRed Intensive Transients Survey
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:01132020-093113401
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Ch. 2. adapted for Ch. 3. adapted for Ch. 4. adapted for Ch. 5.
Jencson, Jacob Edmund0000-0001-5754-4007
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13617
Deposited By: Jacob Jencson
Deposited On:21 Jan 2020 22:24
Last Modified:18 Dec 2020 02:19

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