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Light a Single Candle: Studying Supernovae



Dianne M. O'Leary, Bert W. Rust


At peak luminosity, Type Ia supernovae can be even brighter than their parent galaxies, and their light curves display a very uniform and regular behavior. This makes them excellent candidates for a role as standard candles in measuring the distances to their galaxies. This tutorial paper shows the student how to develop a mathematical model for the light curve and to fit that model to actual observed light curves in order to estimate the parameters that will be used to calibrate the standard candle.
Computing in Science & Engineering


type Ia supervovae, light curve modelling, radioactive decay chains, nonlinear least squares, variable projection algorithm


O'Leary, D. and Rust, B. (2012), Light a Single Candle: Studying Supernovae, Computing in Science & Engineering, [online], (Accessed July 15, 2024)


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Created February 29, 2012, Updated October 12, 2021