Do spectra improve distance measurements of Type Ia supernovae?
Astronomy and Astrophysics
[Abridged] We investigate the use of a wide variety of spectroscopic measurements to determine distances to low-redshift Type Ia supernovae (SN Ia). We consider linear models for predicting distances to SN Ia using light-curve width and color parameters (determined using the SALT2 light-curve fitter) and a spectroscopic indicator, and evaluate the resulting Hubble diagram scatter using a cross-validation procedure. We confirm the ability of spectral flux ratios alone at maximum light to reduce
... um light to reduce the scatter of Hubble residuals by ~10% with respect to the standard combination of light-curve width and color. When used in combination with the SALT2 color parameter, the color-corrected flux ratio R^c(6420/5290) at maximum light leads to an even lower scatter, although the improvement has low statistical significance (<2 sigma) given the size of our sample (26 SN Ia). We highlight the importance of an accurate relative flux calibration and the failure of this method for highly-reddened objects. Comparison with synthetic spectra from 2D delayed-detonation explosion models shows that the correlation of R(6630/4400) with SN Ia absolute magnitudes can be largely attributed to intrinsic color variations and not to reddening by dust in the host galaxy. We consider flux ratios at other ages, as well as the use of pairs of flux ratios, revealing the presence of small-scale intrinsic spectroscopic variations in the iron-group dominated absorption features around ~4300 A and ~4800 A. The best flux ratio overall is the color-corrected R^c(4610/4260) at t=-2.5d from maximum light, which leads to ~30% lower scatter with respect to the standard combination of light-curve width and color. We examine other spectroscopic indicators related to line-profile morphology, but none appear to lead to a significant improvement over the standard light-curve width and color parameters.