Thermonuclear .Ia Supernovae from helium shell detonations: Explosion models and observables

Ken J. Shen, Dan Kasen, Nevin N. Weinberg, Lars Bildsten, Evan Scannapieco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


During the early evolution of an AM Canum Venaticorum system, helium is accreted onto the surface of a white dwarf under conditions suitable for unstable thermonuclear ignition. The turbulent motions induced by the convective burning phase in the He envelope become strong enough to influence the propagation of burning fronts and may result in the onset of a detonation. Such an outcome would yield radioactive isotopes and a faint rapidly rising thermonuclear ".Ia" supernova. In this paper, we present hydrodynamic explosion models and observable outcomes of these He shell detonations for a range of initial core and envelope masses. The peak UVOIR bolometric luminosities range by a factor of 10 (from 5 × 1041 to 5 × 1042 erg s-1), and the R-band peak varies from M R,peak = -15 to -18. The rise times in all bands are very rapid (<10 days), but the decline rate is slower in the red than in the blue due to a secondary near-IR brightening. The nucleosynthesis primarily yields heavy α-chain elements (40Ca through 56Ni) and unburnt He. Thus, the spectra around peak light lack signs of intermediate-mass elements and are dominated by CaII and TiII features, with the caveat that our radiative transfer code does not include the nonthermal effects necessary to produce He features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)767-774
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Binaries: close
  • Novae, cataclysmic variables
  • Nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances
  • Supernovae: general
  • White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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