Shag writes "Type Ia supernovae are used as cosmological 'standard candles' to measure distance because of their strong similarity to one another. This has made possible, for example, the research into universal expansion that led to the Nobel-winning discovery of 'dark energy.' For years, astrophysicists believed white dwarves exploded when they accreted enough mass from companion stars to reach a limit of 1.38 times the mass of our Sun. A decade ago, the 'Champagne supernova' (SN 2003fg) was so bright astrophysicists concluded the limit had been exceeded by two white dwarves colliding. Now a new paper (PDF) from the Nearby Supernova Factory collaboration suggests that type Ia supernovae occur at a wider range of stellar masses. Fortunately, there appears to be a calculable correlation between mass and light-curve width, so they can still fill the 'standard candle' role, and research based on them is probably still valid. (I took data for the paper, but am not an author.)"
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