NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2006A-0522

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Proposal Information for 2006A-0522


PI: Douglas Leonard, Caltech, leonard@astro.caltech.edu
Address: Astronomy Department, Mail Code 105-24, Pasadena, CA 91125-2400, USA

Title: Constraining the Type Ia Supernova Progenitor: The Search for Hydrogen in Nebular Spectra

Abstract: The progenitor systems of Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are observationally unconstrained. Prevailing theory invokes a carbon- oxygen white dwarf accreting matter from a companion until a thermonuclear runaway ensues that incinerates the white dwarf. While models of exploding carbon-oxygen white dwarfs faithfully reproduce the main characteristics of SNe Ia, we are ignorant about the nature of the proposed companion star. Simulations resulting from this single- degenerate binary channel, however, demand the presence of low-velocity, H(alpha) emission in spectra taken in the nebular phase (250 - 400 days after maximum light), since a portion of the companion's envelope becomes entrained in the ejecta. This hydrogen has never been detected, and only generally weak limits have heretofore been set from ~ 6 SNe Ia observed during the nebular phase at low resolution and often with a low signal-to-noise ratio (S/N). We propose to remedy this situation through high S/N observations of two nearby, nebular-phase SNe Ia, with sufficient sensitivity and resolution to detect ~ 0.01 \msun of solar abundance material in the ejecta. The detection of late- time H(alpha) emission would be considered a ``smoking gun'' for the binary scenario. If H(alpha) is not detected, the limits will effectively rule out sub-giant, red giant, and all but the most widely separated main-sequence companions.


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