Type Ia supernova carbon footprints

R. C. Thomas, G. Aldering, P. Antilogus, C. Aragon, S. Bailey, C. Baltay, S. Bongard, C. Buton, A. Canto, M. Childress, N. Chotard, Y. Copin, H. K. Fakhouri, E. Gangler, E. Y. Hsiao, M. Kerschhaggl, M. Kowalski, S. Loken, P. Nugent, K. PaechR. Pain, E. Pecontal, R. Pereira, S. Perlmutter, D. Rabinowitz, M. Rigault, D. Rubin, K. Runge, R. Scalzo, G. Smadja, C. Tao, B. A. Weaver, C. Wu, P. J. Brown, P. A. Milne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


We present convincing evidence of unburned carbon at photospheric velocities in new observations of five TypeIa supernovae (SNe Ia) obtained by the Nearby Supernova Factory. These SNe are identified by examining 346 spectra from 124 SNe obtained before +2.5days relative to maximum. Detections are based on the presence of relatively strong C II λ6580 absorption "notches" in multiple spectra of each SN, aided by automated fitting with the SYNAPPS code. Four of the five SNe in question are otherwise spectroscopically unremarkable, with ions and ejection velocities typical of SNe Ia, but spectra of the fifth exhibit high-velocity (v > 20, 000kms -1) Si II and Ca II features. On the other hand, the light curve properties are preferentially grouped, strongly suggesting a connection between carbon-positivity and broadband light curve/color behavior: three of the five have relatively narrow light curves but also blue colors and a fourth may be a dust-reddened member of this family. Accounting for signal to noise and phase, we estimate that 22+10 - 6% of SNe Ia exhibit spectroscopic C II signatures as late as -5days with respect to maximum. We place these new objects in the context of previously recognized carbon-positive SNe Ia and consider reasonable scenarios seeking to explain a physical connection between light curve properties and the presence of photospheric carbon. We also examine the detailed evolution of the detected carbon signatures and the surrounding wavelength regions to shed light on the distribution of carbon in the ejecta. Our ability to reconstruct the C II λ6580 feature in detail under the assumption of purely spherical symmetry casts doubt on a "carbon blobs" hypothesis, but does not rule out all asymmetric models. A low volume filling factor for carbon, combined with line-of-sight effects, seems unlikely to explain the scarcity of detected carbon in SNe Ia by itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number27
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • supernovae: general
  • supernovae: individual (SN 2005cf, SN 2005di, SN 2005el, SN 2005ki, SNF20080514-002)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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