skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: An Empirical Fitting Method for Type Ia Supernova Light Curves: A Case Study of SN 2011fe

Abstract

We present a new empirical fitting method for the optical light curves of Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia). We find that a variant broken-power-law function provides a good fit, with the simple assumption that the optical emission is approximately the blackbody emission of the expanding fireball. This function is mathematically analytic and is derived directly from the photospheric velocity evolution. When deriving the function, we assume that both the blackbody temperature and photospheric velocity are constant, but the final function is able to accommodate these changes during the fitting procedure. Applying it to the case study of SN 2011fe gives a surprisingly good fit that can describe the light curves from the first-light time to a few weeks after peak brightness, as well as over a large range of fluxes (∼5 mag, and even ∼7 mag in the g band). Since SNe Ia share similar light-curve shapes, this fitting method has the potential to fit most other SNe Ia and characterize their properties in large statistical samples such as those already gathered and in the near future as new facilities become available.

Authors:
;  [1]
  1. Department of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3411 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22654510
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal Letters; Journal Volume: 838; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; APPROXIMATIONS; BRIGHTNESS; EMISSION; EVOLUTION; FLAMES; NUCLEAR FIREBALLS; SUPERNOVAE; VELOCITY; VISIBLE RADIATION

Citation Formats

Zheng, WeiKang, and Filippenko, Alexei V., E-mail: zwk@astro.berkeley.edu. An Empirical Fitting Method for Type Ia Supernova Light Curves: A Case Study of SN 2011fe. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/AA6442.
Zheng, WeiKang, & Filippenko, Alexei V., E-mail: zwk@astro.berkeley.edu. An Empirical Fitting Method for Type Ia Supernova Light Curves: A Case Study of SN 2011fe. United States. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/AA6442.
Zheng, WeiKang, and Filippenko, Alexei V., E-mail: zwk@astro.berkeley.edu. Mon . "An Empirical Fitting Method for Type Ia Supernova Light Curves: A Case Study of SN 2011fe". United States. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/AA6442.
@article{osti_22654510,
title = {An Empirical Fitting Method for Type Ia Supernova Light Curves: A Case Study of SN 2011fe},
author = {Zheng, WeiKang and Filippenko, Alexei V., E-mail: zwk@astro.berkeley.edu},
abstractNote = {We present a new empirical fitting method for the optical light curves of Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia). We find that a variant broken-power-law function provides a good fit, with the simple assumption that the optical emission is approximately the blackbody emission of the expanding fireball. This function is mathematically analytic and is derived directly from the photospheric velocity evolution. When deriving the function, we assume that both the blackbody temperature and photospheric velocity are constant, but the final function is able to accommodate these changes during the fitting procedure. Applying it to the case study of SN 2011fe gives a surprisingly good fit that can describe the light curves from the first-light time to a few weeks after peak brightness, as well as over a large range of fluxes (∼5 mag, and even ∼7 mag in the g band). Since SNe Ia share similar light-curve shapes, this fitting method has the potential to fit most other SNe Ia and characterize their properties in large statistical samples such as those already gathered and in the near future as new facilities become available.},
doi = {10.3847/2041-8213/AA6442},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal Letters},
number = 1,
volume = 838,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Mar 20 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Mon Mar 20 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}
  • The nearby supernova SN 2011fe can be observed in unprecedented detail. Therefore, it is an important test case for Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) models, which may bring us closer to understanding the physical nature of these objects. Here, we explore how available and expected future observations of SN 2011fe can be used to constrain SN Ia explosion scenarios. We base our discussion on three-dimensional simulations of a delayed detonation in a Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarf and of a violent merger of two white dwarfs (WDs)-realizations of explosion models appropriate for two of the most widely discussed progenitor channels that maymore » give rise to SNe Ia. Although both models have their shortcomings in reproducing details of the early and near-maximum spectra of SN 2011fe obtained by the Nearby Supernova Factory (SNfactory), the overall match with the observations is reasonable. The level of agreement is slightly better for the merger, in particular around maximum, but a clear preference for one model over the other is still not justified. Observations at late epochs, however, hold promise for discriminating the explosion scenarios in a straightforward way, as a nucleosynthesis effect leads to differences in the {sup 55}Co production. SN 2011fe is close enough to be followed sufficiently long to study this effect.« less
  • On 2011 August 24 (UT) the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) discovered PTF11kly (SN 2011fe), the youngest and most nearby Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) in decades. We followed this event up in the radio (centimeter and millimeter bands) and X-ray bands, starting about a day after the estimated explosion time. We present our analysis of the radio and X-ray observations, yielding the tightest constraints yet placed on the pre-explosion mass-loss rate from the progenitor system of this supernova. We find a robust limit of M-dot {approx}<10{sup -8}(w/100 km s{sup -1}) M{sub sun} yr{sup -1} from sensitive X-ray non-detections, as wellmore » as a similar limit from radio data, which depends, however, on assumptions about microphysical parameters. We discuss our results in the context of single-degenerate models for SNe Ia and find that our observations modestly disfavor symbiotic progenitor models involving a red giant donor, but cannot constrain systems accreting from main-sequence or sub-giant stars, including the popular supersoft channel. In view of the proximity of PTF11kly and the sensitivity of our prompt observations, we would have to wait for a long time (a decade or longer) in order to more meaningfully probe the circumstellar matter of SNe Ia.« less
  • We present the earliest ultraviolet (UV) observations of the bright Type Ia supernova SN 2011fe/PTF11kly in the nearby galaxy M101 at a distance of only 6.4 Mpc. It was discovered shortly after explosion by the Palomar Transient Factory and first observed by Swift/UVOT about a day after explosion. The early UV light is well defined, with {approx}20 data points per filter in the five days after explosion. These early and well-sampled UV observations form new template light curves for comparison with observations of other SNe Ia at low and high redshift. We report fits from semiempirical models of the explosionmore » and find the time evolution of the early UV flux to be well fitted by the superposition of two parabolic curves. Finally, we use the early UV flux measurements to examine a possible shock interaction with a non-degenerate companion. From models predicting the measurable shock emission, we find that even a solar mass companion at a distance of a few solar radii is unlikely at more than 95% confidence.« less
  • We present well-sampled optical observations of the bright Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) SN 2011fe in M101. Our data, starting from ∼16 days before maximum light and extending to ∼463 days after maximum, provide an unprecedented time series of spectra and photometry for a normal SN Ia. Fitting the early-time rising light curve, we find that the luminosity evolution of SN 2011fe follows a t{sup n} law, with the index n being close to 2.0 in the VRI bands but slightly larger in the U and B bands. Combining the published ultraviolet (UV) and near-infrared (NIR) photometry, we derive the contributionmore » of UV/NIR emission relative to the optical. SN 2011fe is found to have stronger UV emission and reaches its UV peak a few days earlier than other SNe Ia with similar Δm{sub 15}(B), suggestive of less trapping of high-energy photons in the ejecta. Moreover, the U-band light curve shows a notably faster decline at late phases (t ≈ 100–300 days), which also suggests that the ejecta may be relatively transparent to UV photons. These results favor the notion that SN 2011fe might have a progenitor system with relatively lower metallicity. On the other hand, the early-phase spectra exhibit prominent high-velocity features (HVFs) of O i λ7773 and the Ca ii NIR triplet, but only barely detectable in Si ii 6355. This difference can be caused by either an ionization/temperature effect or an abundance enhancement scenario for the formation of HVFs; it suggests that the photospheric temperature of SN 2011fe is intrinsically low, perhaps owing to incomplete burning during the explosion of the white dwarf.« less
  • We analyze the rise and fall times of Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) light curves discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-II (SDSS-II) Supernova Survey. From a set of 391 light curves k-corrected to the rest-frame B and V bands, we find a smaller dispersion in the rising portion of the light curve compared to the decline. This is in qualitative agreement with computer models which predict that variations in radioactive nickel yield have less impact on the rise than on the spread of the decline rates. The differences we find in the rise and fall properties suggest that amore » single 'stretch' correction to the light curve phase does not properly model the range of SN Ia light curve shapes. We select a subset of 105 light curves well observed in both rise and fall portions of the light curves and develop a '2-stretch' fit algorithm which estimates the rise and fall times independently. We find the average time from explosion to B-band peak brightness is 17.38 {+-} 0.17 days, but with a spread of rise times which range from 13 days to 23 days. Our average rise time is shorter than the 19.5 days found in previous studies; this reflects both the different light curve template used and the application of the 2-stretch algorithm. The SDSS-II supernova set and the local SNe Ia with well-observed early light curves show no significant differences in their average rise-time properties. We find that slow-declining events tend to have fast rise times, but that the distribution of rise minus fall time is broad and single peaked. This distribution is in contrast to the bimodality in this parameter that was first suggested by Strovink (2007) from an analysis of a small set of local SNe Ia. We divide the SDSS-II sample in half based on the rise minus fall value, t{sub r} - t{sub f} {approx}< 2 days and t{sub r} - t{sub f} > 2 days, to search for differences in their host galaxy properties and Hubble residuals; we find no difference in host galaxy properties or Hubble residuals in our sample.« less