We present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging observations of the site of the Type-Ia supernova SN2011fe in the nearby galaxy M101, obtained about 1 yr prior to the event, in a narrow band centred on the He II λ4686 Å emission line. In a ‘single-degenerate’ progenitor scenario, the hard photon flux from an accreting white dwarf (WD), burning hydrogen on its surface over ∼1 Myr should, in principle, create a He III Strömgren sphere or shell surrounding the WD. Depending on the WD luminosity, the interstellar density, and the velocity of an outflow from the WD, the He III region could appear unresolved, extended, or as a ring, with a range of possible surface brightnesses. We find no trace of He II λ4686 Å line emission in the HST data. Using simulations, we set 2σ upper limits on the He II λ4686 Å luminosity of LHeII < 3.4 × 1034 erg s−1 for a point source, corresponding to an emission region of radius r < 1.8 pc. The upper limit for an extended source is LHeII < 1.7 × 1035 erg s−1, corresponding to an extended region with r ∼ 11 pc. The largest detectable shell, given an interstellar-medium density of 1 cm−3, has a radius of ∼6 pc. Our results argue against the presence, within the ∼105 yr prior to the explosion, of a supersoft X-ray source of luminosity Lbol ≳ 3 × 1037 erg s−1, or of a super-Eddington accreting WD that produces an outflowing wind capable of producing cavities with radii of 2–6 pc.
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters|
|Early online date||29 Apr 2014|
|Publication status||Published - 21 Jul 2014|