Color dispersion and milky-way-like reddening among type Ia supernovae

Daniel M. Scolnic, Adam G. Riess, Ryan J. Foley, Armin Rest, Steven A. Rodney, Dillon J. Brout, David O. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past analyses of Type Ia supernovae have identified an irreducible scatter of 5%-10% in distance, widely attributed to an intrinsic dispersion in luminosity. Another equally valid source of this scatter is intrinsic dispersion in color. Misidentification of the true source of this scatter can bias both the retrieved color-luminosity relation and cosmological parameter measurements. The size of this bias depends on the magnitude of the intrinsic color dispersion relative to the distribution of colors that correlate with distance. We produce a realistic simulation of a misattribution of intrinsic scatter and find a negative bias in the recovered color-luminosity relation, β, of Δβ ≈ -1.0 (∼33%) and a positive bias in the equation of state parameter, w, of Δw ≈ +0.04 (∼4%). We re-analyze current published datasets with the assumption that the distance scatter is predominantly the result of color. Unlike previous analyses, we find that the data are consistent with a Milky-Way-like reddening law (RV = 3.1) and that a Milky-Way dust model better predicts the asymmetric color-luminosity trends than the conventional luminosity scatter hypothesis. We also determine that accounting for color variation reduces the correlation between various host galaxy properties and Hubble residuals by ∼20%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • dark energy
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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