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A relativistic type Ibc supernova without a detected γ-ray burst


Long duration γ-ray bursts (GRBs) mark1 the explosive death of some massive stars and are a rare sub-class of type Ibc supernovae. They are distinguished by the production of an energetic and collimated relativistic outflow powered2 by a central engine (an accreting black hole or neutron star). Observationally, this outflow is manifested3 in the pulse of γ-rays and a long-lived radio afterglow. Until now, central-engine-driven supernovae have been discovered exclusively through their γ-ray emission, yet it is expected4 that a larger population goes undetected because of limited satellite sensitivity or beaming of the collimated emission away from our line of sight. In this framework, the recovery of undetected GRBs may be possible through radio searches5,6 for type Ibc supernovae with relativistic outflows. Here we report the discovery of luminous radio emission from the seemingly ordinary type Ibc SN 2009bb, which requires a substantial relativistic outflow powered by a central engine. A comparison with our radio survey of type Ibc supernovae reveals that the fraction harbouring central engines is low, about one per cent, measured independently from, but consistent with, the inferred7 rate of nearby GRBs. Independently, a second mildly relativistic supernova has been reported8.

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Figure 1: Radio observations of the nearest massive star explosions.
Figure 2: Synchrotron self-absorption model fits to the SN 2009bb radio spectra.
Figure 3: Radio properties of the nearest massive star explosions directly reveal the blast-wave velocities.
Figure 4: Blast-wave velocity and energy for massive star explosions.


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The VLA is operated by the NRAO, a facility of the NSF operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. GMRT is run by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED) which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA. A.M.S. and O.F. acknowledge support by NASA through Hubble and GSRP grants, respectively. E.M.L. is funded through a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. R.J.F. is a Clay fellow. R.A.C. and R.P.K. acknowledge support through NASA and NSF grants. G.P. and M.H. acknowledge support from FONDECYT, Iniciativa Cientifica Milenio, FONDAP and CONICYT. A.R. and S.C. are funded by an 11th Five Year Plan Project.

Author Contributions All authors contributed extensively to the work presented in this paper.

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Correspondence to A. M. Soderberg.

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Soderberg, A., Chakraborti, S., Pignata, G. et al. A relativistic type Ibc supernova without a detected γ-ray burst. Nature 463, 513–515 (2010).

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