The Frequency of Supernovae in the Early Universe

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Astronomy, Stockholm University

Abstract: Supernovae are cosmic explosions of cataclysmic proportion that signify the death of a star. While being interesting phenomena in their own right, their brightness also make them excellent probes of the early universe. Depending on the type of the progenitor star and the origin of the explosion different subjects can be investigated. In this dissertation the work I have done on the detection, characterisation and rate measurements of supernovae in the Stockholm VIMOS Supernova Search is presented. We have discovered 16 supernovae that exploded billions of years ago (or, equivalently, at high redshift, z). The observed brightness and colour evolution have been used to classify the supernovae into either thermonuclear (type Ia) or core collapse (type II) supernovae. The accuracy of the classification code is high, only about 5% of the supernovae are mistyped, similar to other codes of the same kind. By comparing the observed frequency of supernovae to simulations the underlying supernova rate at these high redshifts have been measured. The main result reported in this thesis is that the core collapse supernova rate at high redshift matches the rates estimated from looking at the star formation history of the universe, and agree well with previous studies. The rate of Ia supernovae at high redshift have been investigated by several projects, our results show a somewhat higher rate of Ia supernovae than expected. Proper estimates of the systematic errors of rate measurements are found to be very important. Furthermore, by using novel techniques for reducing and stacking images, we have obtained a galaxy sample containing approximately 50,000 galaxies. Photometric redshifts have been obtained for most of the galaxies, the resulting accuracy below z=1 is on the order of 10%. The galaxy sample has also been used to find high redshift sources, so called Lyman Break Galaxies, at z=3-5.