A Caltech Library Service

Supernova SN 2011fe from an exploding carbon–oxygen white dwarf star

Nugent, Peter E. and Kulkarni, S. R. and Kasliwal, Mansi M. and Ofek, Eran O. and Howard, Andrew W. and Isaacson, Howard T. and Fulton, Benjamin J. (2011) Supernova SN 2011fe from an exploding carbon–oxygen white dwarf star. Nature, 480 (7377). pp. 344-347. ISSN 0028-0836.

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
See Usage Policy.

PDF (Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Figure 1 with a legend and additional references) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Type Ia supernovae have been used empirically as ‘standard candles’ to demonstrate the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe even though fundamental details, such as the nature of their progenitor systems and how the stars explode, remain a mystery. There is consensus that a white dwarf star explodes after accreting matter in a binary system, but the secondary body could be anything from a main-sequence star to a red giant, or even another white dwarf. This uncertainty stems from the fact that no recent type Ia supernova has been discovered close enough to Earth to detect the stars before explosion. Here we report early observations of supernova SN 2011fe in the galaxy M101 at a distance from Earth of 6.4 megaparsecs. We find that the exploding star was probably a carbon–oxygen white dwarf, and from the lack of an early shock we conclude that the companion was probably a main-sequence star. Early spectroscopy shows high-velocity oxygen that slows rapidly, on a timescale of hours, and extensive mixing of newly synthesized intermediate-mass elements in the outermost layers of the supernova. A companion paper uses pre-explosion images to rule out luminous red giants and most helium stars as companions to the progenitor.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access Paper
Nugent, Peter E.0000-0002-3389-0586
Kulkarni, S. R.0000-0001-5390-8563
Kasliwal, Mansi M.0000-0002-5619-4938
Ofek, Eran O.0000-0002-6786-8774
Howard, Andrew W.0000-0001-8638-0320
Isaacson, Howard T.0000-0002-0531-1073
Fulton, Benjamin J.0000-0003-3504-5316
Additional Information:© 2011 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 8 September; accepted 14 October 2011. The PTF project is a scientific collaboration between the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Las Cumbres Observatory, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, the University of Oxford and the Weizmann Institute of Science. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, supported by the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy (DOE), provided staff, computational resources and data storage for this project. P.E.N. acknowledges support from the US DOE Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing programme. M.S. acknowledges support from the Royal Society. J.S.B. and L.B. were supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The work of A.V.F. is funded by the NSF, the TABASGO Foundation, Gary and Cynthia Bengier, and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. A.G. thanks the ISF and BSF. The Liverpool Telescope is operated by Liverpool John Moores University in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias with financial support from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council. Some of the data presented here were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA; the observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. We thank the staffs of the many observatories at which data were obtained for their assistance. Author Contributions: P.E.N., M.S. and D.A.H. oversee the PTF programme on type Ia supernovae. P.E.N. oversaw the preparation of the manuscript. M.S., D.B., K.M., Y.-C.P., J.L. and P.J. performed and reduced the FRODOSpec observations. S.B.C., M.T.K., A.V.F. and J.M.S. obtained and reduced the Lick spectrum. G.W.M., A.W.H. and H.T.I. obtained the HIRES observations. S.B.C., J.S.B., S.R.K., M.M.K., N.M.L., E.O.O., R.M.Q. and D.P. assisted in the operation of the Palomar 48-inch telescope as part of the PTF collaboration. R.C.T. and J.E.T. performed the SYNAPPS analysis. D.K., L.B. and P.P. assisted with the theoretical interpretation of our observations. N.S., B.J.F., J.T.P., D.S., F.B.B., B.D., M.L.G., I.M.H., P.M., E.P., E.S.W. and A.G. assisted in follow-up observations of SN 2011fe.
Group:Palomar Transient Factory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
Gary and Cynthia BengierUNSPECIFIED
Richard and Rhoda Goldman FundUNSPECIFIED
Israel Science FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Binational Science Foundation (USA-Israel)UNSPECIFIED
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)UNSPECIFIED
W. M. Keck FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Astronomy; physics
Issue or Number:7377
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20120104-113414677
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Supernova SN 2011fe from an exploding carbon–oxygen white dwarf star Peter E. Nugent, Mark Sullivan, S. Bradley Cenko, Rollin C. Thomas, Daniel Kasen, D. Andrew Howell, David Bersier, Joshua S. Bloom, S. R. Kulkarni, Michael T. Kandrashoff, Alexei V. Filippenko, Jeffrey M. Silverman, Geoffrey W. Marcy, Andrew W. Howard, Howard T. Isaacson, Kate Maguire, Nao Suzuki, James E. Tarlton, Yen-Chen Pan, Lars Bildsten, Benjamin J. Fulton, Jerod T. Parrent, David Sand, Philipp Podsiadlowski, Federica B. Bianco, Benjamin Dilday, Melissa L. Graham, Joe Lyman, Phil James, Mansi M. Kasliwal, Nicholas M. Law, Robert M. Quimby, Isobel M. Hook, Emma S. Walker, Paolo Mazzali, Elena Pian, Eran O. Ofek, Avishay Gal-Yam & Dovi Poznanski Nature 480, 344–347 (15 December 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10644
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:28647
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:05 Jan 2012 15:25
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 03:34

Repository Staff Only: item control page