The effect of progenitor age and metallicity on luminosity and 56Ni yield in type Ia supernovae

D. A. Howell*, M. Sullivan, E. F. Brown, A. Conley, D. Le Borgne, E. Y. Hsiao, P. Astier, D. Balam, C. Balland, S. Basa, R. G. Carlberg, D. Fouchez, J. Guy, D. Hardin, I. M. Hook, R. Pain, K. Perrett, C. J. Pritchet, N. Regnault, S. BaumontJ. Le Du, C. Lidman, S. Perlmutter, N. Suzuki, E. S. Walker, J. C. Wheeler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


Timmes et al. found that metallicity variations could theoretically account for a 25% variation in the mass of 56Ni synthesized in Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), and thus account for a large fraction of the scatter in observed SN Ia luminosities. Higher-metallicity progenitors are more neutron rich, producing more stable burning products relative to radioactive 56Ni. We develop a new method for estimating bolometric luminosity and 56Ni yield in SNe Ia and use it to test the theory with data from the Supernova Legacy Survey. We find that the average 56Ni yield does drop in SNe Ia from high-metallicity environments, but the theory can only account for 7%-10% of the dispersion in SN Ia 56Ni mass, and thus luminosity. This is because the effect is dominant at metallicities significantly above solar, whereas we find that SN hosts have predominantly subsolar or only moderately above-solar metallicities. We also show that allowing for changes in O/Fe with the metallicity [Fe/H] does not have a major effect on the theoretical prediction of Timmes et al., so long as one is using the O/H as the independent variable. Age may have a greater effect than metallicity - we find that the luminosity-weighted age of the host galaxy is correlated with 56Ni yield, and thus more massive progenitors give rise to more luminous explosions. This is hard to understand if most SNe Ia explode when the primaries reach the Chandrasekhar mass. Finally, we test the findings of Gallagher et al. that the residuals of SNe Ia from the Hubble diagram are correlated with host galaxy metallicity, and we find no such correlation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-671
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


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