Superluminous Supernovae as Standardizable Candles and High-Redshift Distance Probes

C. Inserra*, S. J. Smartt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)
235 Downloads (Pure)


We investigate the use of type Ic superluminous supernovae (SLSN Ic) as standardizable candles and distance indicators. Their appeal as cosmological probes stems from their remarkable peak luminosities, hot blackbody temperatures, and bright rest-frame ultraviolet emission. We present a sample of 16 published SLSN, from redshifts 0.1 to 1.2, and calculate accurate K corrections to determine uniform magnitudes in 2 synthetic rest-frame filter bandpasses with central wavelengths at 400 nm and 520 nm. At 400 nm, we find an encouragingly low scatter in their uncorrected, raw mean magnitudes with M(400) = -21.86 ± 0.35 mag for the full sample of 16 objects. We investigate the correlation between their decline rates and peak magnitude and find that the brighter events appear to decline more slowly. In a manner similar to the Phillips relation for type Ia SNe (SNe Ia), we define a ΔM 20 decline relation. This correlates peak magnitude and decline over 20 days and can reduce the scatter in standardized peak magnitudes to ±0.22 mag. We further show that M(400) appears to have a strong color dependence. Redder objects are fainter and also become redder faster. Using this peak magnitudecolor evolution relation, a surprisingly low scatter of between ±0.08 mag and ±0.13 mag can be found in peak magnitudes, depending on sample selection. However, we caution that only 8 to 10 objects currently have enough data to test this peak magnitudecolor evolution relation. We conclude that SLSN Ic are promising distance indicators in the high-redshift universe in regimes beyond those possible with SNe Ia. Although the empirical relationships are encouraging, the unknown progenitor systems, how they may evolve with redshift, and the uncertain explosion physics are of some concern. The two major measurement uncertainties are the limited numbers of low-redshift, well-studied objects available to test these relationships and internal dust extinction in the host galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number87
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2014


  • distance scale
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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