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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The type Ia supernova SNLS-03D3bb from a super-Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarf star

  • Author(s): Howell, D.Andrew
  • Sullivan, Mark
  • Nugent, Peter E.
  • Ellis, Richard S.
  • Conley, Alexander J.
  • Le Borgne, Damien
  • Carlberg, Raymond G.
  • Guy, Julien
  • Balam, David
  • Basa, Stephane
  • Fouchez, Dominique
  • Hook, Isobel M.
  • Hsiao, Eric Y.
  • Neill, James D.
  • Pain, Reynald
  • Perrett, Kathryn M.
  • Pritchet, Christopher J.
  • et al.

The acceleration of the expansion of the universe, and the need for Dark Energy, were inferred from the observations of Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) 1;2. There is consensus that SNeIa are thermonuclear explosions that destroy carbon-oxygen white dwarf stars that accrete matter from a companion star3, although the nature of this companion remains uncertain. SNe Ia are thought to be reliable distance indicators because they have a standard amount of fuel and a uniform trigger they are predicted to explode when the mass of the white dwarf nears the Chandrasekhar mass 4 - 1.4 solar masses. Here we show that the high redshift supernova SNLS-03D3bb has an exceptionally high luminosity and low kinetic energy that both imply a super-Chandrasekhar mass progenitor. Super-Chandrasekhar mass SNeIa should preferentially occur in a young stellar population, so this may provide an explanation for the observed trend that overluminous SNe Ia only occur in young environments5;6. Since this supernova does not obey the relations that allow them to be calibrated as standard candles, and since no counterparts have been found at low redshift, future cosmology studies will have to consider contamination from such events.

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