The supernova delay time distribution in galaxy clusters and implications for Type-Ia progenitors and metal enrichment

Dan Maoz*, Keren Sharon, Avishay Gal-Yam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Knowledge of the supernova (SN) delay time distribution (DTD)-the SN rate versus time that would follow a hypothetical brief burst of star formation-can shed light on SN progenitors and physics, as well as on the timescales of chemical enrichment in different environments. We compile recent measurements of the Type-Ia SN (SN Ia) rate in galaxy clusters at redshifts from z = 0 out to z = 1.45, just 2 Gyr after cluster star formation at z ≈ 3. We review the plausible range for the observed total iron-to-stellar mass ratio in clusters, based on the latest data and analyses, and use it to constrain the time-integrated number of SN Ia events in clusters. With these data, we recover the DTD of SNe Ia in cluster environments. The DTD is sharply peaked at the shortest time-delay interval we probe, 0 Gyr < t < 2.2 Gyr, with a low tail out to delays of ∼10 Gyr, and is remarkably consistent with several recent DTD reconstructions based on different methods, applied to different environments. We test DTD models from the literature, requiring that they simultaneously reproduce the observed cluster SN rates and the observed iron-to-stellar mass ratios. A parameterized power-law DTD of the form t -1.2±03 from t = 400 Myr to a Hubble time can satisfy both constraints. Shallower power laws such as t-1/2 cannot, assuming a single DTD, and a single star formation burst (either brief or extended) at high z. This implies that 50%-85% of SNe Ia explode within 1 Gyr of star formation. DTDs from double-degenerate (DD) models, which generically have ∼t -1 shapes over a wide range of timescales, match the data, but only if their predictions are scaled up by factors of 5-10. Single-degenerate (SD) DTDs always give poor fits to the data, due to a lack of delayed SNe and overall low numbers of SNe. The observations can also be reproduced with a combination of two SN Ia populations-a prompt SD population of SNe Ia that explodes within a few Gyr of star formation, and produces about 60% of the iron mass in clusters, and a DD population that contributes the events seen at z < 1.5. An alternative scenario of a single, prompt, SN Ia population, but a composite star formation history in clusters, consisting of a burst at high z, followed by a constant star formation rate, can reproduce the SN rates, but is at odds with direct measurements of star formation in clusters at 0 < z < 1. Our results support the existence of a DD progenitor channel for SNe Ia, if the overall predicted numbers can be suitably increased.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1879-1894
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2010


  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Supernovae: general


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