Study of radio supernovae over the past 20 years includes two dozen detected objects and more than 100 upper limits. From this work it is possible to identify classes of radio properties, demonstrate conformance to and deviations from existing models, estimate the density and structure of the circumstellar material and, by inference, the evolution of the presupernova stellar wind, and reveal the last stages of stellar evolution before explosion. It is also possible to detect ionized hydrogen along the line of sight, to demonstrate binary properties of the stellar system, and to show clumpiness of the circumstellar material. More speculatively, it may be possible to provide distance estimates to radio supernovae.

Over the past four years the afterglow of gamma-ray bursters has occasionally been detected in the radio, as well in other wavelengths bands. In particular, the interesting and unusual gamma-ray burst GRB980425, thought to be related to SN1998bw, is a possible link between supernovae and gamma-ray bursters. Analyzing the extensive radio emission data avaliable for SN1998bw, one can describe its time evolution within the well-established framework available for the analysis of radio emission from supernovae. This allows relatively detailed description of a number of physical properties of the object. The radio emission can best be explained as the interaction of a mildly relativistic (Γ ∼ 1.6) shock with a dense preexplosion stellar wind–established circumstellar medium that is highly structured both azimuthally, in clumps or filaments, and radially, with observed density enhancements. Because of its unusual characteristics for a Type Ib/c supernova, the relation of SN1998bw to GRB980425 is strengthened and suggests that at least some classes of GRBs originate in massive star explosions. Thus, employing the formalism for describing the radio emission from supernovae and following the link through SN1998bw/GRB980425, it is possible to model the gross properties of the radio and optical/infrared emission from the half-dozen GRBs with extensive radio observations. From this we conclude that at least some members of the “slow-soft” class of GRBs can be attributed to the explosion of a massive star in a dense, highly structured circumstellar medium that was presumably established by the preexplosion stellar system.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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