Stellar Destinies: Reconstructing Star System Progenitors From Their Final Explosive Fates
In this talk I will describe three types of stellar explosion: (i) the core collapse of massive stars, (ii) the thermonuclear disruption of white dwarf stars, and (iii) the merger of binary neutron star (BNS) systems, and our ongoing efforts to map individual explosions to their specific progenitors. I will present my work using the most powerful telescopes in the world to directly image the stars before they explode, as well as a novel new survey that we are using to discover these explosions in the hours after they explode. I will conclude with a discussion of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the flagship survey for ground-based astronomy in the 2020s. LSST will discover ~2000 new explosions every night, requiring the use of new tools, such as machine learning. I will examine the prospects, both positive and negative, of machine learning in the context of LSST and argue that LSST will be necessary for the characterization of LIGO-discovered BNS systems in the next decade.