Constraints on type Ia supernova progenitor companions from early ultraviolet observations with Swift

Peter J. Brown, Kyle S. Dawson, David W. Harris, Matthew Olmstead, Peter Milne, Peter W.A. Roming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


We compare early ultraviolet (UV) observations of Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) with theoretical predictions for the brightness of the shock associated with the collision between SN ejecta and a companion star. Our simple method is independent of the intrinsic flux from the SN and treats the flux observed with the Swift/Ultra-Violet Optical Telescope as conservative upper limits on the shock brightness. Comparing this limit with the predicted flux for various shock models, we constrain the geometry of the SN progenitor-companion system. We find the model of a 1 M red supergiant companion in Roche-lobe overflow to be excluded at a 95% confidence level for most individual SNe for all but the most unfavorable viewing angles. For the sample of 12SNe taken together, the upper limits on the viewing angle are inconsistent with the expected distribution of viewing angles for red gaint stars as the majority of companions with high confidence. The separation distance constraints do allow main-sequence companions. A better understanding of the UV flux arising from the SN itself as well as continued UV observations of young SNe Ia will further constrain the possible progenitors of SNe Ia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 10 2012


  • binaries: general
  • supernovae: general
  • ultraviolet: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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