Twins for life? A comparative analysis of the Type Ia supernovae 2011fe and 2011by

M. L. Graham, R. J. Foley, W. Zheng, P. L. Kelly, I. Shivvers, J. M. Silverman, A. V. Filippenko, K. I. Clubb, M. Ganeshalingam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nearby Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) 2011fe and 2011by had nearly identical photospheric phase optical spectra, light-curve widths, and photometric colours, but at peak brightness SN 2011by reached a fainter absolute magnitude in all optical bands and exhibited lower flux in the near-ultraviolet (NUV). Based on those data, Foley & Kirshner argue that the progenitors of SNe 2011by and 2011fe had supersolar and subsolar metallicity, respectively, and that SN 2011fe generated 1.7 times the amount of 56Ni as SN 2011by. With this work, we extend the comparison of these SNe Ia to 10 d before and 300 d after maximum brightness with newspectra and photometry. We showthat the nebular phase spectra of SNe 2011fe and 2011by are almost identical, and do not support a factor of 1.7 difference in 56Ni mass. Instead, we find it plausible that the Tully-Fisher distance for SN 2011by is an underestimate, in which case these SNe Ia may have reached similar peak luminosity, formed similar amounts of 56Ni, and had lower metallicity progenitors than previously estimated. Regardless of the true distance to SN 2011by, we find that the relative progenitor metallicity difference remains well supported by their disparity in NUV flux, which we show to be even stronger at pre-maximum epochs - although contributions from differences in total ejecta mass, viewing angle, or progenitor density cannot be ruled out. We also demonstrate that, independent of distance modulus, SN 2011by exhibits a late-time luminosity excess that cannot be explained by a light echo, but is more likely to be the result of greater energy trapping by the nucleosynthetic products of SN 2011by.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2073-2088
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 11 2015


  • Supernovae: general
  • Supernovae: individual: SN 2011by
  • Supernovae: individual: SN 2011fe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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