Probing the stellar initial mass function with high-z supernovae

Rafael S. de Souza, E.~E.~O. Ishida, D.~J. Whalen, J.~L. Johnson, A. Ferrara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The first supernovae (SNe) will soon be visible at the edge of the observable universe, revealing the birthplaces of Population III stars. With upcoming near-infrared missions, a broad analysis of the detectability of high-z SNe is paramount. We combine cosmological and radiation transport simulations, instrument specifications and survey strategies to create synthetic observations of primeval core-collapse (CC), Type IIn and pair-instability (PI) SNe with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). We show that a dedicated observational campaign with the JWST can detect up to ∼15 PI explosions, ∼300 CC SNe, but less than one Type IIn explosion per year, depending on the Population III star formation history. Our synthetic survey also shows that ≈1–2 × 102 SNe detections, depending on the accuracy of the classification, are sufficient to discriminate between a Salpeter and flat mass distribution for high-redshift stars with a confidence level greater than 99.5 per cent. We discuss how the purity of the sample affects our results and how supervised learning methods may help to discriminate between CC and PI SNe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1640-1655
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014


  • supernovae: general
  • dark ages
  • reionization
  • first stars
  • infrared: general
  • Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics


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