Type Ia supernova

Type Ia supernova

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Type Ia supernova'
Start a new discussion about 'Type Ia supernova'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

A Type Ia supernova is a sub-category of supernovae, which in turn are a sub-category of cataclysmic
Cataclysmic variable star
Cataclysmic variable stars are stars which irregularly increase in brightness by a large factor, then drop back down to a quiescent state...

 variable stars, that results from the violent explosion of a white dwarf
White dwarf
A white dwarf, also called a degenerate dwarf, is a small star composed mostly of electron-degenerate matter. They are very dense; a white dwarf's mass is comparable to that of the Sun and its volume is comparable to that of the Earth. Its faint luminosity comes from the emission of stored...

 star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

. A white dwarf is the remnant of a star that has completed its normal life cycle and has ceased nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

. However, white dwarfs of the common carbon-oxygen variety are capable of further fusion reactions that release a great deal of energy if their temperatures rise high enough.

Physically, white dwarfs with a low rate of rotation are limited to masses that are below the Chandrasekhar limit
Chandrasekhar limit
When a star starts running out of fuel, it usually cools off and collapses into one of three compact forms, depending on its total mass:* a White Dwarf, a big lump of Carbon and Oxygen atoms, almost like one huge molecule...

 of about 1.38 solar mass
Solar mass
The solar mass , , is a standard unit of mass in astronomy, used to indicate the masses of other stars and galaxies...

es. This is the maximum mass that can be supported by electron degeneracy pressure
Electron degeneracy pressure
Electron degeneracy pressure is a particular manifestation of the more general phenomenon of quantum degeneracy pressure. The Pauli Exclusion Principle disallows two half integer spin particles from occupying the same quantum state at a given time. The resulting emergent repulsive force is...

. Beyond this limit the white dwarf would begin to collapse. If a white dwarf gradually accretes mass from a binary companion, the general hypothesis is that its core will reach the ignition temperature for carbon fusion
Carbon burning process
The carbon-burning process or carbon fusion is a set of nuclear fusion reactions that take place in massive stars that have used up the lighter elements in their cores...

 as it approaches the limit. If the white dwarf merges with another star (a very rare event), it will momentarily exceed the limit and begin to collapse, again raising its temperature past the nuclear fusion ignition point. Within a few seconds of initiation of nuclear fusion, a substantial fraction of the matter in the white dwarf undergoes a runaway
Thermal runaway
Thermal runaway refers to a situation where an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature, often leading to a destructive result...

 reaction, releasing enough energy (1–) to unbind the star in a supernova explosion.

This category of supernova
Supernova
A supernova is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. It is pronounced with the plural supernovae or supernovas. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months...

e produces consistent peak luminosity because of the uniform mass of white dwarfs that explode via the accretion mechanism. The stability of this value allows these explosions to be used as standard candles to measure the distance to their host galaxies because the visual magnitude of the supernovae depends primarily on the distance.

Consensus model


The Type Ia supernova is a sub-category in the Minkowski-Zwicky supernova classification scheme, which was devised by American astronomers Rudolph Minkowski
Rudolph Minkowski
Rudolph Minkowski was a German-American astronomer. His father was the physiologist Oskar Minkowski and his uncle was Hermann Minkowski....

 and Fritz Zwicky
Fritz Zwicky
Fritz Zwicky was a Swiss astronomer. He worked most of his life at the California Institute of Technology in the United States of America, where he made many important contributions in theoretical and observational astronomy.- Biography :Fritz Zwicky was born in Varna, Bulgaria to a Swiss father....

. There are several means by which a supernova of this type can form, but they share a common underlying mechanism. When a slowly-rotating, carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

-oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 white dwarf
White dwarf
A white dwarf, also called a degenerate dwarf, is a small star composed mostly of electron-degenerate matter. They are very dense; a white dwarf's mass is comparable to that of the Sun and its volume is comparable to that of the Earth. Its faint luminosity comes from the emission of stored...

 accretes
Accretion (astrophysics)
In astrophysics, the term accretion is used for at least two distinct processes.The first and most common is the growth of a massive object by gravitationally attracting more matter, typically gaseous matter in an accretion disc. Accretion discs are common around smaller stars or stellar remnants...

 matter from a companion, it cannot exceed the Chandrasekhar limit of about 1.38 solar mass
Solar mass
The solar mass , , is a standard unit of mass in astronomy, used to indicate the masses of other stars and galaxies...

es, beyond which it would no longer be able to support its weight through electron degeneracy pressure and begin to collapse. In the absence of a countervailing process, the white dwarf would collapse to form a neutron star
Neutron star
A neutron star is a type of stellar remnant that can result from the gravitational collapse of a massive star during a Type II, Type Ib or Type Ic supernova event. Such stars are composed almost entirely of neutrons, which are subatomic particles without electrical charge and with a slightly larger...

, as normally occurs in the case of a white dwarf that is primarily composed of magnesium, neon and oxygen.

The current view among astronomers who model Type Ia supernova explosions is that this limit is never actually attained, however, so that collapse is never initiated. Instead, the increase in pressure and density due to the increasing weight raises the temperature of the core, and as the white dwarf approaches to within about 1% of the limit, a period of convection
Convection
Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids....

 ensues, lasting approximately 1,000 years. At some point in this simmering phase, a deflagration
Deflagration
Deflagration is a term describing subsonic combustion that usually propagates through thermal conductivity; hot burning material heats the next layer of cold material and ignites it. Most "fire" found in daily life, from flames to explosions, is deflagration...

 flame front is born, powered by carbon fusion
Carbon burning process
The carbon-burning process or carbon fusion is a set of nuclear fusion reactions that take place in massive stars that have used up the lighter elements in their cores...

. The details of the ignition are still unknown, including the location and number of points where the flame begins. Oxygen fusion
Oxygen burning process
The oxygen-burning process is a set of nuclear fusion reactions that take place in massive stars that have used up the lighter elements in their cores. It occurs at temperatures around 1.5×109 K / 130 keV and densities of 1010 kg/m3....

 is initiated shortly thereafter, but this fuel is not consumed as completely as carbon.

Once fusion has begun, the temperature of the white dwarf starts to rise. A main sequence
Main sequence
The main sequence is a continuous and distinctive band of stars that appears on plots of stellar color versus brightness. These color-magnitude plots are known as Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams after their co-developers, Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell...

 star supported by thermal pressure would expand and cool in order to counter-balance an increase in thermal energy. However, degeneracy pressure is independent of temperature; the white dwarf is unable to regulate the burning process in the manner of normal stars, and is vulnerable to a runaway
Thermal runaway
Thermal runaway refers to a situation where an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature, often leading to a destructive result...

 fusion reaction. The flame accelerates dramatically, in part due to the Rayleigh–Taylor instability and interactions with turbulence
Turbulence
In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is a flow regime characterized by chaotic and stochastic property changes. This includes low momentum diffusion, high momentum convection, and rapid variation of pressure and velocity in space and time...

. It is still a matter of considerable debate whether this flame transforms into a supersonic
Supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 detonation
Detonation
Detonation involves a supersonic exothermic front accelerating through a medium that eventually drives a shock front propagating directly in front of it. Detonations are observed in both conventional solid and liquid explosives, as well as in reactive gases...

 from a subsonic
Speed of sound
The speed of sound is the distance travelled during a unit of time by a sound wave propagating through an elastic medium. In dry air at , the speed of sound is . This is , or about one kilometer in three seconds or approximately one mile in five seconds....

 deflagration
Deflagration
Deflagration is a term describing subsonic combustion that usually propagates through thermal conductivity; hot burning material heats the next layer of cold material and ignites it. Most "fire" found in daily life, from flames to explosions, is deflagration...

.

Regardless of the exact details of nuclear burning, it is generally accepted that a substantial fraction of the carbon and oxygen in the white dwarf is burned into heavier elements within a period of only a few seconds, raising the internal temperature to billions of degrees. This energy release from thermonuclear burning (1–) is more than enough to unbind
Gravitational binding energy
The gravitational binding energy of an object consisting of loose material, held together by gravity alone, is the amount of energy required to pull all of the material apart, to infinity...

 the star; that is, the individual particles making up the white dwarf gain enough kinetic energy
Kinetic energy
The kinetic energy of an object is the energy which it possesses due to its motion.It is defined as the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes...

 that they are all able to fly apart from each other. The star explodes violently and releases a shock wave
Shock wave
A shock wave is a type of propagating disturbance. Like an ordinary wave, it carries energy and can propagate through a medium or in some cases in the absence of a material medium, through a field such as the electromagnetic field...

 in which matter is typically ejected at speeds on the order of 5,000–, or roughly up to 6% of the speed of light
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...

. The energy released in the explosion also causes an extreme increase in luminosity. The typical visual absolute magnitude
Absolute magnitude
Absolute magnitude is the measure of a celestial object's intrinsic brightness. it is also the apparent magnitude a star would have if it were 32.6 light years away from Earth...

 of Type Ia supernovae is Mv = −19.3 (about 5 billion times brighter than the Sun), with little variation. Whether or not the supernova remnant remains bound to its companion depends on the amount of mass ejected.

The theory of this type of supernovae is similar to that of nova
Nova
A nova is a cataclysmic nuclear explosion in a star caused by the accretion of hydrogen on to the surface of a white dwarf star, which ignites and starts nuclear fusion in a runaway manner...

e, in which a white dwarf
White dwarf
A white dwarf, also called a degenerate dwarf, is a small star composed mostly of electron-degenerate matter. They are very dense; a white dwarf's mass is comparable to that of the Sun and its volume is comparable to that of the Earth. Its faint luminosity comes from the emission of stored...

 accretes matter more slowly and does not approach the Chandrasekhar limit. In the case of a nova, the infalling matter causes a hydrogen fusion surface explosion that does not disrupt the star. This type of supernova differs from a core-collapse supernova
Type II supernova
A Type II supernova results from the rapid collapse and violent explosion of a massive star. A star must have at least 9 times, and no more than 40–50 times the mass of the Sun for this type of explosion. It is distinguished from other types of supernova by the presence of hydrogen in its spectrum...

, which is caused by the cataclysmic explosion of the outer layers of a massive star as its core implodes.

Formation


One model for the formation of this category of supernova is a close binary star
Binary star
A binary star is a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common center of mass. The brighter star is called the primary and the other is its companion star, comes, or secondary...

 system. The progenitor binary system consists of main sequence stars, with the primary possessing more mass than the secondary. Being greater in mass, the primary is the first of the pair to evolve onto the asymptotic giant branch
Asymptotic Giant Branch
The asymptotic giant branch is the region of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram populated by evolving low to medium-mass stars. This is a period of stellar evolution undertaken by all low to intermediate mass stars late in their lives....

, where the star's envelope expands considerably. If the two stars share a common envelope then the system can lose significant amounts of mass, reducing the angular momentum, orbital radius and period. After the primary has degenerated into a white dwarf, the secondary star later evolves into a red giant and the stage is set for mass accretion onto the primary. During this final shared-envelope phase, the two stars spiral in closer together as angular momentum is lost. The resulting orbit can have a period as brief as a few hours. If the accretion continues long enough, the white dwarf may eventually approach the Chandrasekhar limit.

A second possible, but much less likely, mechanism for triggering a Type Ia supernova is the merger of two white dwarfs, with the combined mass exceeding the Chandrasekhar limit (which is called a super-Chandrasekhar mass white dwarf). In such a case, the total mass would not be constrained by the Chandrasekhar limit. This is one of several explanations proposed for the anomalously massive (2 solar mass) progenitor of the SN 2003fg.

Collisions of solitary stars within our galaxy are thought to occur only once every -; far less frequently than the appearance of novae. However, collisions occur with greater frequency in the dense core regions of globular cluster
Globular cluster
A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers. The name of this category of star cluster is...

s. (cf. blue straggler
Blue straggler
Blue stragglers are main sequence stars in open or globular clusters that are more luminous and bluer than stars at the main sequence turn-off point for the cluster. Blue stragglers were first discovered by Allan Sandage in 1953 while performing photometry of the stars in the globular cluster M3...

s) A likely scenario is a collision with a binary star
Binary star
A binary star is a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common center of mass. The brighter star is called the primary and the other is its companion star, comes, or secondary...

 system, or between two binary systems containing white dwarfs. This collision can leave behind a close binary system of two white dwarfs. Their orbit decays and they merge together through their shared envelope.

The white dwarf companion could also accrete matter from other types of companions, including a subgiant or (if the orbit is sufficiently close) even a main sequence
Main sequence
The main sequence is a continuous and distinctive band of stars that appears on plots of stellar color versus brightness. These color-magnitude plots are known as Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams after their co-developers, Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell...

 star. The actual evolutionary process during this accretion stage remains uncertain, as it can depend both on the rate of accretion and the transfer of angular momentum
Angular momentum
In physics, angular momentum, moment of momentum, or rotational momentum is a conserved vector quantity that can be used to describe the overall state of a physical system...

 to the white dwarf companion.

Unlike the other types of supernovae, Type Ia supernovae generally occur in all types of galaxies
Galaxy
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

, including elliptical
Elliptical galaxy
An elliptical galaxy is a galaxy having an approximately ellipsoidal shape and a smooth, nearly featureless brightness profile. They range in shape from nearly spherical to highly flat and in size from hundreds of millions to over one trillion stars...

s. They show no preference for regions of current stellar formation. As white dwarf stars form at the end of a star's main sequence evolutionary period, such a long-lived star system may have wandered far from the region where it originally formed. Thereafter a close binary system may spend another million years in the mass transfer stage (possibly forming persistent nova outbursts) before the conditions are ripe for a Type Ia supernova to occur.

Light curve


Type Ia supernovae have a characteristic light curve
Light curve
In astronomy, a light curve is a graph of light intensity of a celestial object or region, as a function of time. The light is usually in a particular frequency interval or band...

, their graph of luminosity as a function of time after the explosion. Near the time of maximum luminosity, the spectrum contains lines of intermediate-mass elements from oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 to calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

; these are the main constituents of the outer layers of the star. Months after the explosion, when the outer layers have expanded to the point of transparency, the spectrum is dominated by light emitted by material near the core of the star, heavy elements synthesized during the explosion; most prominently isotopes close to the mass of iron (or iron peak
Iron peak
The iron peak is a local maximum in the vicinity of Fe on the graph of the abundances of chemical elements, as seen below....

 elements). The radioactive decay
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

 of nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

-56 through cobalt
Cobalt
Cobalt is a chemical element with symbol Co and atomic number 27. It is found naturally only in chemically combined form. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal....

-56 to iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

-56 produces high-energy photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

s which dominate the energy output of the ejecta at intermediate to late times.

The similarity in the absolute luminosity profiles of nearly all known Type Ia supernovae has led to their use as a secondary standard candle in extragalactic astronomy. The cause of this uniformity in the luminosity curve is still an open question. In 1998, observations of distant Type Ia supernovae indicated the unexpected result that the Universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 seems to undergo an accelerating expansion
Accelerating universe
The accelerating universe is the observation that the universe appears to be expanding at an increasing rate, which in formal terms means that the cosmic scale factor a has a positive second derivative, implying that the velocity at which a given galaxy is receding from us should be continually...

.

See also


  • Carbon detonation
    Carbon detonation
    Carbon detonation is the violent re-ignition of thermonuclear fusion in a dead star, which produces a Type Ia supernova. A white dwarf undergoes carbon detonation only if it has a normal binary companion which is close enough to the dwarf star to dump sufficient amounts of matter onto the dwarf,...

  • History of supernova observation
    History of supernova observation
    The known history of supernova observation goes back to 185 CE, when supernova SN 185 appeared, the oldest appearance of a supernova recorded by humankind...

  • Supernova remnant
    Supernova remnant
    A supernova remnant is the structure resulting from the explosion of a star in a supernova. The supernova remnant is bounded by an expanding shock wave, and consists of ejected material expanding from the explosion, and the interstellar material it sweeps up and shocks along the way.There are two...

  • Extragalactic Distance Scale

External links

(A Type Ia progenitor found)