Spectroscopic diversity of Type Ia supernovae

Date

2009-08-28T17:42:36Z

Authors

Hsiao, Yi Chi Eric

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Abstract

Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are excellent tools in cosmology. Their intrinsic luminosities are found to vary systematically with the light-curve widths, providing an empirical calibration. This property, called the width-luminosity relation (WLR), is the basis of modern SN Ia cosmology and led to the unexpected discovery of the current accelerated rate of cosmic expansion. By examining the spectroscopic diversity of SNe Ia, this thesis aims to improve both the use of SNe Ia in cosmology and the physical understanding of the observed properties. Spectra of SNe Ia contain a wealth of information, but are difficult to organize. In this thesis, new methods are developed to consistently quantify and analyze the spectral features of supernovae. The efficacy of the methods is tested on a large library of observed spectra encompassing a wide range of properties. The spectroscopic diversity of SNe Ia enters cosmology through K-correction calculations. Before this work, K-correction was a major contributor of the systematic errors in cosmology. It is shown here that the systematic errors can be largely diminished by carefully quantifying the mean spectroscopic properties of SNe Ia. The remaining statistical errors are also quantified and shown to be redshift dependent. With the aid of principal component analysis (PCA), the multidimensional spectral information is reduced to a few components describing the largest variations in the spectral library. Using this tool, it is shown here that SN Ia intrinsic luminosity is the main driver of the spectroscopic diversity at maximum light, for every spectral feature from the ultraviolet to the near-infrared. These spectroscopic sequences can potentially account for a large fraction of the K-correction statistical errors and even enable the use of SN Ia spectra as independent indicators of intrinsic luminosity and colors. The established relations will also disentangle the effects of demographic shift and true evolution in high-redshift SN Ia spectra. The temporal evolution of the spectral features is shown to exhibit the persistence of the spectroscopic sequences throughout other epochs. The effect is attributed to the more rapid spectroscopic temporal evolution of fainter SNe Ia. This conclusion supports the theory that WLR is primarily a spectroscopic effect, rather than a bolometric one.

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Keywords

supernovae, cosmology, dark energy, supernova spectra

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