The case for a misaligned relativistic jet from SN 2001em

Jonathan Granot, Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


SN 200lem, identified as a Type le supernova (SN Ic), has recently been detected in the radio and X-rays, ≳2 yr after the explosion. The high luminosities at such late times might arise from a relativistic jet viewed substantially off-axis that becomes visible only when it turns mildly relativistic and its emission is no longer strongly beamed away from us. Alternatively, the emission might originate from the interaction of the SN shell with the circumstellar medium. We find that the latter scenario is hard to reconcile with the observed rapid rise in the radio flux and optically thin spectrum, Fν ∝ ν-0.36±0.16t 1.9±0.4 features arise naturally from a misaligned relativistic jet. The high X-ray luminosity provides an independent and more robust constraint; it requires ∼1051 ergs in mildly relativistic ejecta. The source should therefore currently have a large angular size (∼2 mas), which could be resolved in the radio with the Very Long Baseline Array. It is also expected to be bipolar and is thus likely to exhibit a large degree of linear polarization (∼10%-20%). The presence of a relativistic outflow in SN 2001em would have interesting implications. It would suggest that several percent of SNe Ib/c produce mildly relativistic jets, with an initial Lorentz factor Γ0 ≳ 2, while the fraction that produces gamma-ray burst (GRB) jets (with Γ0 ≳ 100) is ∼100 times smaller. This could considerably increase the expected number of transients similar to orphan GRB afterglows in the radio and to a lesser extent in the optical and X-rays, if there is a continuous distribution in Γ0. Furthermore, this may give further credence to the idea that core-collapse SNe, and in particular SNe Ib/c, are triggered by bipolar jets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L9-L12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 II
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Gamma rays: bursts
  • ISM: jets and outflows
  • Supernovae: general
  • Supernovae: individual (SN 2001em)


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