Evidence for Two Distinct Populations of Type Ia Supernovae

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Science  12 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6129, pp. 170-173
DOI: 10.1126/science.1231502

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Fast and Young

Type Ia supernovae are thought to result from the thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf star accreting material from a companion star in a binary system. Their adoption as cosmic yardsticks has led to the discovery of the accelerated expansion of the universe. Wang et al. (p. 170, published online 7 March) show that supernovae with higher expansion velocities are located in the central, brighter regions of their host galaxies and are found in larger, more luminous galaxies, suggesting that they are associated with younger stellar populations.


Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) have been used as excellent standardizable candles for measuring cosmic expansion, but their progenitors are still elusive. Here, we report that the spectral diversity of SNe Ia is tied to their birthplace environments. We found that those with high-velocity ejecta are substantially more concentrated in the inner and brighter regions of their host galaxies than are normal-velocity SNe Ia. Furthermore, the former tend to inhabit larger and more luminous hosts. These results suggest that high-velocity SNe Ia likely originate from relatively younger and more metal-rich progenitors than do normal-velocity SNe Ia and are restricted to galaxies with substantial chemical evolution.

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