The detectability of pair-production supernovae at z ≲ 6

Evan Scannapieco, Piero Madau, Stan Woosley, Alexander Heger, Andrea Ferrara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Nonrotating, zero-metallicity stars with initial masses 140 ≲ M* ≲ 260 M⊙ are expected to end their lives as pair-production supernovae (PPSNe), in which an electron-positron pair-production instability triggers explosive nuclear burning. Interest in such stars has been rekindled by recent theoretical studies that suggest primordial molecular clouds preferentially form stars with these masses. Since metal enrichment is a local process, the resulting PPSNe could occur over a broad range of redshifts, in pockets of metal-free gas. Using the implicit hydrodynamics code KEPLER, we have calculated a set of PPSN light curves that addresses the theoretical uncertainties and allows us to assess observational strategies for finding these objects at intermediate redshifts. The peak luminosities of typical PPSNe are only slightly greater than those of Type la, but they remain bright much longer (∼ 1 yr) and have hydrogen lines. Ongoing supernova searches may soon be able to limit the contribution of these very massive stars to ≲1% of the total star formation rate density out to z≈2, which already provides useful constraints for theoretical models. The planned Joint Dark Energy Mission satellite will be able to extend these limits out to 2 ≈ 6.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1041
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Nov 10 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: stellar content
  • Stars: early-type
  • Supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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