The nearby supernova SN 2011fe can be observed in unprecedented detail. Therefore, it is an important test case for Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) models, which may bring us closer to understanding the physical nature of these objects. Here, we explore how available and expected future observations of SN 2011fe can be used to constrain SN Ia explosion scenarios. We base our discussion on three-dimensional simulations of a delayed detonation in a Chandrasekhar-mass white dwarf and of a violent merger of two white dwarfs (WDs)—realizations of explosion models appropriate for two of the most widely discussed progenitor channels that may give rise to SNe Ia.
Although both models have their shortcomings in reproducing details of the early and near-maximum spectra of SN 2011fe obtained by the Nearby Supernova Factory (SNfactory), the overall match with the observations is reasonable. The level of agreement is slightly better for the merger, in particular around maximum, but a clear preference for one model over the other is still not justified. Observations at late epochs, however, hold promise for discriminating the explosion scenarios in a straightforward way, as a nucleosynthesis effect leads to differences in the 55Co production. SN 2011fe is close enough to be followed sufficiently long to study this effect.
Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 750, Issue 1, article id. L19, 7 pp. (2012), full text available at http://de.arxiv.org/abs/1203.4839.