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What are the progenitors of type Ia Supernovae?

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Type-Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are important distance indicators, element factories, cosmic-ray accelerators, kinetic-energy sources in galaxy evolution, and endpoints of stellar binary evolution. It has long been clear that a SN Ia must ben the runaway thermonuclear explosion of a degenerate carbon-oxygen stellar core, most likely a white dwarf (WD). However, the specific progenitor systems of SNe Ia, and the processes that lead to their ignition, have not been identified. Two broad classes of progenitor binary systems have long been considered: single-degenerate (SD), in which a WD gains mass from a non-degenerate star; and double-degenerate (DD), involving the merger of two WDs. New theoretical work, has enriched these possibilities with some interesting updates and variants. I’ll present significant recent observational progress in addressing the progenitor problem. The recent nearby and well-studied event, SN 2011fe, has been particularly revealing. The observational results are not yet conclusive, but they start to point toward one specific direction.

This talk is part of the Cavendish Astrophysics Seminars series.

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