The ejected mass distribution of Type Ia supernovae: a significant rate of non-Chandrasekhar-mass progenitors

R. A. Scalzo, A. J. Ruiter, S. A. Sim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


The ejected mass distribution of Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) directly probes progenitor evolutionary history and explosion mechanisms, with implications for their use as cosmological probes. Although the Chandrasekhar mass is a natural mass scale for the explosion of white dwarfs as SNe Ia, models allowing SNe Ia to explode at other masses have attracted much recent attention. Using an empirical relation between the ejected mass and the light-curve width, we derive ejected masses Mej and 56Ni masses MNi for a sample of 337 SNe Ia with redshifts z <0.7 used in recent cosmological analyses. We use hierarchical Bayesian inference to reconstruct the joint Mej-MNi distribution, accounting for measurement errors. The inferred marginal distribution of Mej has a long tail towards sub-Chandrasekhar masses, but cuts off sharply above 1.4 M⊙. Our results imply that 25-50 per cent of normal SNe Ia are inconsistent with Chandrasekhar-mass explosions, with almost all of these being sub-Chandrasekhar mass; super-Chandrasekhar-mass explosions make up no more than 1 per cent of all spectroscopically normal SNe Ia. We interpret the SN Ia width-luminosity relation as an underlying relation between Mej and MNi, and show that the inferred relation is not naturally explained by the predictions of any single known explosion mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2535-2544
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date20 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2014


  • methods: statistical
  • supernovae: general
  • white dwarfs
  • dark energy


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