Type Ia supernovae are valuable distance indicators for cosmology and an important component in our understanding of binary stellar evolution; the elements they synthesize and eject contribute significantly to the origin of the elements. During the past year, the discovery and intensive worldwide observational follow-up of the brightest Type Ia supernova in a generation, SN 2011fe, have greatly improved our understanding of these cataclysmic stellar deaths. The supernova was discovered when it had only one one-thousandth of the brightness it would achieve at maximum light when it was observed by thousands around the world through binoculars and small telescopes. Although several long-held assumptions have been confirmed by this discovery, this supernova has forced us to question the origin of these events and to rethink and improve the way we model them through detailed simulations. We review our current understanding of Type Ia supernovae and discuss how SN 2011fe has both improved and challenged our understanding of these most spectacular explosions.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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