Letter | Published:

Rapid formation of large dust grains in the luminous supernova 2010jl

Nature volume 511, pages 326329 (17 July 2014) | Download Citation



The origin of dust in galaxies is still a mystery1,2,3,4. The majority of the refractory elements are produced in supernova explosions, but it is unclear how and where dust grains condense and grow, and how they avoid destruction in the harsh environments of star-forming galaxies. The recent detection of 0.1 to 0.5 solar masses of dust in nearby supernova remnants5,6,7 suggests in situ dust formation, while other observations reveal very little dust in supernovae in the first few years after explosion1,8,9,10. Observations of the spectral evolution of the bright SN 2010jl have been interpreted as pre-existing dust11, dust formation12,13 or no dust at all14. Here we report the rapid (40 to 240 days) formation of dust in its dense circumstellar medium. The wavelength-dependent extinction of this dust reveals the presence of very large (exceeding one micrometre) grains, which resist destruction15. At later times (500 to 900 days), the near-infrared thermal emission shows an accelerated growth in dust mass, marking the transition of the dust source from the circumstellar medium to the ejecta. This provides the link between the early and late dust mass evolution in supernovae with dense circumstellar media.

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We thank L. Christensen and T. Frederiksen for advice on data reduction with the X-shooter pipeline and M. Stritzinger and R. Arendt for discussions. This investigation is based on observations made with ESO Telescopes at the La Silla Paranal Observatory under programme ID numbers 084.C-0315(D) and 087.C-0456(A). C.G. was supported from the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) and acknowledges funding provided by the Danish Agency for Science and Technology and Innovation. G.L. is supported by the Swedish Research Council through grant number 623-2011-7117. A.C.D.-J. is supported by the Proyecto Basal PB06 (CATA), and partially supported by the Joint Committee ESO-Government Chile. The Dark Cosmology Centre is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation.

Author information


  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 120, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

    • Christa Gall
  2. Dark Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries Vej 30, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark

    • Christa Gall
    • , Jens Hjorth
    • , Darach Watson
    • , Justyn R. Maund
    • , Giorgos Leloudas
    •  & Daniele Malesani
  3. Observational Cosmology Lab, Code 665, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

    • Christa Gall
    •  & Eli Dwek
  4. Astrophysics Research Centre School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK

    • Justyn R. Maund
  5. Department of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3411, USA

    • Ori Fox
  6. The Oskar Klein Centre, Department of Physics, Stockholm University, Albanova University Centre, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden

    • Giorgos Leloudas
  7. Departamento de Astronomía, Universidad de Chile, Camino del Observatorio 1515, Santiago, Chile

    • Avril C. Day-Jones


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C.G. and J.H. conducted the observational campaign, reduced and analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. D.W. was the Principal Investigator of the observing programmes and assisted in writing the manuscript. E.D. performed calculations of vaporization radii and assisted in writing the manuscript. O.F. and G.L. assisted in data analysis. J.R.M. helped with the interpretation of the spectra and line profiles. D.M. and D.W. assisted with observations. A.C.D.-J. conducted the observation of the epoch 2 spectrum. All authors were engaged in discussions and provided comments on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christa Gall.

Extended data

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains additional discussions related to the interpretations of the data obtained for SN 2010jl and the data reported in the literature. It also establishes the robustness of the results.

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