Grouping normal type Ia supernovae by UV to optical color differences

Peter A. Milne, Peter J. Brown, Peter W.A. Roming, Filomena Bufano, Neil Gehrels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Observations of many Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) for multiple epochs per object with the Swift Ultraviolet Optical Telescope instrument have revealed that there exists order to the differences in the UV-optical colors of optically normal supernovae (SNe). We examine UV-optical color curves for 23 SNe Ia, dividing the SNe into four groups, and find that roughly one-third of "NUV-blue" SNe Ia have bluer UV-optical colors than the larger "NUV-red" group. Two minor groups are recognized, "MUV-blue" and "irregular" SNe Ia. While we conclude that the latter group is a subset of the NUV-red group, containing the SNe with the broadest optical peaks, we conclude that the "MUV-blue" group is a distinct group. Separating into the groups and accounting for the time evolution of the UV-optical colors lowers the scatter in two NUV-optical colors (e.g., u-v and uvw1-v) to the level of the scatter in b-v. This finding is promising for extending the cosmological utilization of SNe Ia into the NUV. We generate spectrophotometry of 33 SNe Ia and determine the correct grouping for each. We argue that there is a fundamental spectral difference in the 2900-3500 Å wavelength range, a region suggested to be dominated by absorption from iron-peak elements. The NUV-blue SNe Ia feature less absorption than the NUV-red SNe Ia. We show that all NUV-blue SNe Ia in this sample also show evidence of unburned carbon in optical spectra, whereas only one NUV-red SN Ia features that absorption line. Every NUV-blue event also exhibits a low gradient of the Si II λ6355 absorption feature. Many NUV-red events also exhibit a low gradient, perhaps suggestive that NUV-blue events are a subset of the larger low-velocity gradient group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2013


  • galaxies: distances and redshifts
  • supernovae: general
  • ultraviolet: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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