About the SNfactory
The Nearby Supernova Factory is an experiment designed to collect data on more Type Ia supernovae than have ever been studied in a single project before, and in so doing, to answer some fundamental questions about the nature of the universe. Type Ia supernovae are extraordinarily bright, remarkably uniform objects which make excellent "standard candles" for measuring the expansion rate of the universe. However, such stellar explosions are very rare, occurring only a couple of times per millenium in a typical galaxy, and remaining bright enough to detect only for a few weeks. Previous studies of Type Ia supernovae led to the discovery of the mysterious "dark energy" that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.
To reduce the statistical uncertainties in previous experimental data, extensive spectral and photometric monitoring of more Type Ia supernovae is required. The SNfactory collaboration has built an automated system consisting of specialized software and custom-built hardware that systematically searches the sky for new supernovae, screens potential candidates, then performs multiple spectral and photometric observations on each supernova. These observations will be stored in a database to be made available to supernova researchers world-wide for further study and analysis.
For an recent overview of supernova cosmology research, see Supernovae, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Universe, S. Perlmutter, Physics Today, April 2003.