The ages of type Ia supernova progenitors

Timothy D. Brandt, Rita Tojeiro, Éric Aubourg, Alan Heavens, Raul Jimenez, Michael A. Strauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Using light curves and host galaxy spectra of 101 Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) with redshift z < 0.3fromthe Sloan Digital Sky Survey Supernova Survey (SDSS-SN), we derive the SN Ia rate as a function of progenitor age (the delay time distribution, DTD). We use the VESPA stellar population synthesis algorithm to analyze the SDSS spectra of all galaxies in the field searched by SDSS-SN, giving us a reference sample of 77, 000 galaxies for our SN Ia hosts. Our method does not assume any a priori shape for the DTD and is therefore minimally parametric. We present the DTD in physical units for high-stretch (luminous, slow declining) and low-stretch (subluminous, fast declining) supernovae in three progenitor age bins. We find strong evidence of two progenitor channels: one that produces high-stretch SNe Ia < ∼400 Myr after the birth of the progenitor system, and one that produces low-stretch SNe Ia with a delay > ∼2.4 Gyr. We find that each channel contributes roughly half of the Type Ia rate in our reference sample. We also construct the average spectra of high-stretch and low-stretch SN Ia host galaxies, and find that the difference of these spectra looks like a main-sequence B star with nebular emission lines indicative of star formation. This supports our finding that there are two populations of SNe Ia, and indicates that the progenitors of high-stretch supernovae are at the least associated with very recent star formation in the last few tens of Myr. Our results provide valuable constraints for models of Type Ia progenitors and may help improve the calibration of SNe Ia as standard candles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804-816
Number of pages13
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Distance scale
  • Galaxies: Stellar content
  • Supernovae: General


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