C. Afonso

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

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Publications (53)81.12 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: HATSouth is the world’s first network of automated and homogeneous telescopes that is capable of year-round 24 hr monitoring of positions over an entire hemisphere of the sky. The primary scientific goal of the network is to discover and characterize a large number of transiting extrasolar planets, reaching out to long periods and down to small planetary radii. HATSouth achieves this by monitoring extended areas on the sky, deriving high precision light curves for a large number of stars, searching for the signature of planetary transits, and confirming planetary candidates with larger telescopes. HATSouth employs six telescope units spread over three prime locations with large longitude separation in the southern hemisphere (Las Campanas Observatory, Chile; HESS site, Namibia; Siding Spring Observatory, Australia). Each of the HATSouth units holds four 0.18 m diameter /2.8 focal ratio telescope tubes on a common mount producing an 8.2° × 8.2° field of view on the sky, imaged using four 4 K × 4 K CCD cameras and Sloan filters, to give a pixel scale of 3.7″ pixel . The HATSouth network is capable of continuously monitoring 128 square arc degrees at celestial positions moderately close to the anti-solar direction. We present the technical details of the network, summarize operations, and present detailed weather statistics for the three sites. Robust operations have meant that on average each of the six HATSouth units has conducted observations on ∼500 nights over a 2 years time period, yielding a total of more than 1 million science frames at a 4 minute integration time and observing ∼10.65 hr day on average. We describe the scheme of our data transfer and reduction from raw pixel images to trend-filtered light curves and transiting planet candidates. Photometric precision reaches ∼6 mmag at 4 minute cadence for the brightest non-saturated stars at ≈ 10.5 . We present detailed transit recovery simulations to determine the expected yield of transiting planets from HATSouth. We highlight the advantages of networked operations, namely, a threefold increase in the expected number of detected planets, as compared to all telescopes operating from the same site.
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 01/2013; 125(924):154-182. · 3.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A dedicated mission to investigate exoplanetary atmospheres represents a major milestone in our quest to understand our place in the universe by placing our Solar System in context and by addressing the suitability of planets for the presence of life. EChO -the Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory- is a mission concept specifically geared for this purpose. EChO will provide simultaneous, multi-wavelength spectroscopic observations on a stable platform that will allow very long exposures. EChO will build on observations by Hubble, Spitzer and groundbased telescopes, which discovered the first molecules and atoms in exoplanetary atmospheres. EChO will simultaneously observe a broad enough spectral region -from the visible to the mid-IR- to constrain from one single spectrum the temperature structure of the atmosphere and the abundances of the major molecular species. The spectral range and resolution are tailored to separate bands belonging to up to 30 molecules to retrieve the composition and temperature structure of planetary atmospheres. The target list for EChO includes planets ranging from Jupiter-sized with equilibrium temperatures Teq up to 2000 K, to those of a few Earth masses, with Teq ~300 K. We have baselined a dispersive spectrograph design covering continuously the 0.4-16 micron spectral range in 6 channels (1 in the VIS, 5 in the IR), which allows the spectral resolution to be adapted from several tens to several hundreds, depending on the target brightness. The instrument will be mounted behind a 1.5 m class telescope, passively cooled to 50 K, with the instrument structure and optics passively cooled to ~45 K. EChO will be placed in a grand halo orbit around L2. We have also undertaken a first-order cost and development plan analysis and find that EChO is easily compatible with the ESA M-class mission framework.
    Experimental Astronomy 10/2012; 34(2):311-353. · 2.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: HAT-South is the first global network dedicated to searching for transiting planets. With stations in Chile, Australia, and Namibia (managed by CfA/PUC, ANU and MPIA, respectively), it provides a unique, high precision, 24-hour data-stream on stars brighter than 14th magnitude. The HAT-South instruments were installed in 2009, and the network began preliminary operations in 2010. Each site hosts a pair of telescope mounts, and each mount is equipped with four 0.18m diameter, f/2.8 reflectors and four 4Kx4K CCDs. This yields a 8x8 degree mosaic field per mount, imaged onto 64 megapixels. We describe further details of the instrument in our poster, including the instrument control software environment responsible for the fully automated operations. We also summarize the first year of operations, data-flow, initial performance, and early results.
    01/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: Detection of molecules using infrared spectroscopy probes the conditions and compositions of exoplanet atmospheres. Water (H(2)O), methane (CH(4)), carbon dioxide (CO(2)), and carbon monoxide (CO) have been detected in two hot Jupiters. These previous results relied on space-based telescopes that do not provide spectroscopic capability in the 2.4-5.2 microm spectral region. Here we report ground-based observations of the dayside emission spectrum for HD 189733b between 2.0-2.4 microm and 3.1-4.1 microm, where we find a bright emission feature. Where overlap with space-based instruments exists, our results are in excellent agreement with previous measurements. A feature at approximately 3.25 microm is unexpected and difficult to explain with models that assume local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) conditions at the 1 bar to 1 x 10(-6) bar pressures typically sampled by infrared measurements. The most likely explanation for this feature is that it arises from non-LTE emission from CH(4), similar to what is seen in the atmospheres of planets in our own Solar System. These results suggest that non-LTE effects may need to be considered when interpreting measurements of strongly irradiated exoplanets.
    Nature 02/2010; 463(7281):637-9. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    Evgeny Gorbikov, Noah Brosch, Cristina Afonso
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    ABSTRACT: We describe technical aspects of an astrometric and photometric survey of the North Celestial Cap (NCC), from the Pole ( δ=90°) to δ=80°, in support of the TAUVEX mission. This region, at galactic latitudes from ˜17° to ˜37°, has poor coverage in modern CCD-based surveys. The observations are performed with the Wise Observatory one-meter reflector and with a new mosaic CCD camera (LAIWO) that images in the Johnson-Cousins R and I bands a one-square-degree field with sub-arcsec pixels. The images are treated using IRAF and SExtractor to produce a final catalogue of sources. The astrometry, based on the USNO-A2.0 catalogue, is good to ˜1 arcsec and the photometry is good to ˜0.1 mag for point sources brighter than R=20.0 or I=19.1 mag. The limiting magnitudes of the survey, defined at photometric errors smaller than 0.15 mag, are 20.6 mag ( R) and 19.6 ( I). We separate stars from non-stellar objects based on the object shapes in the R and I bands, attempting to reproduce the SDSS star/galaxy dichotomy. The completeness test indicates that the catalogue is complete to the limiting magnitudes.
    Astrophysics and Space Science 12/2009; · 2.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transiting planet systems offer an unique opportunity to observationally constrain proposed models of the interiors (radius, composition) and atmospheres (chemistry, dynamics) of extrasolar planets. The spectacular successes of ground-based transit surveys (more than 60 transiting systems known to-date) and the host of multi-wavelength, spectro-photometric follow-up studies, carried out in particular by HST and Spitzer, have paved the way to the next generation of transit search projects, which are currently ongoing (CoRoT, Kepler), or planned. The possibility of detecting and characterizing transiting Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of their parent stars appears tantalizingly close. In this contribution we briefly review the power of the transit technique for characterization of extrasolar planets, summarize the state of the art of both ground-based and space-borne transit search programs, and illustrate how the science of planetary transits fits within the Blue Dots perspective. Comment: 9 pages, 3 figures, to be published in the proceedings (ASP Conf. Ser.) of the "Pathways Towards Habitable Planets" conference, held in Barcelona (14-18 Sep 2009)
    12/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: CARMENES, Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exo-earths with a Near-infrared Echelle Spectrograph, is a study for a next-generation instrument for the 3.5m Calar Alto Telescope to be designed, built, integrated, and operated by a consortium of nine German and Spanish institutions. Our main objective is finding habitable exoplanets around M dwarfs, which will be achieved by radial velocity measurements on the m/s level in the near-infrared, where low-mass stars emit the bulk of their radiation. Comment: Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, "Pathways towards habitable planets", eds. V. Coude du Foresto, D. M. Gelino & I. Ribas, 14-18 Sep 2009, Barcelona, Spain (in press) Note: Because of space restriction, the printed conference paper will appear with only an abbreviated author list
    12/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: R Coronae Borealis stars (RCB) are a rare type of evolved carbon-rich supergiant stars that are increasingly thought to result from the merger of two white dwarfs, called the Double degenerate scenario. This scenario is also studied as a source, at higher mass, of type Ia Supernovae (SnIa) explosions. Therefore a better understanding of RCBs composition would help to constrain simulations of such events. We searched for and studied RCB stars in the EROS Magellanic Clouds database. We also extended our research to DY Per type stars (DYPers) that are expected to be cooler RCBs (T~3500 K) and much more numerous than their hotter counterparts. The light curves of ~70 millions stars have been analysed to search for the main signature of RCBs and DYPers: a large drop in luminosity. Follow-up optical spectroscopy was used to confirm each photometric candidate found. We have discovered and confirmed 6 new Magellanic Cloud RCB stars and 7 new DYPers, but also listed new candidates: 3 RCBs and 14 DYPers. We estimated a range of Magellanic RCB shell temperatures between 360 and 600 K. We confirm the wide range of absolute luminosity known for RCB stars, M_V~-5.2 to -2.6. Our study further shows that mid-infrared surveys are ideal to search for RCB stars, since they have thinner and cooler circumstellar shells than classical post-AGB stars. In addition, by increasing the number of known DYPers by ~400%, we have been able to shed light on the similarities in the spectral energy distribution between DYPers and ordinary carbon stars. We also observed that DYPer circumstellar shells are fainter and hotter than those of RCBs. This suggests that DYPers may simply be ordinary carbon stars with ejection events, but more abundance analysis is necessary to give a status on a possible evolutionnary connexion between RCBs and DYPers. Comment: 22 pages, 38 figures, Accepted for publication in A&A
    05/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: HAT-South is a network of six identical, fully automated wide field telescopes, to be located at three sites (Chile: Las Campanas, Australia: Siding Springs, and Namibia: HESS site) in the Southern hemisphere. The primary purpose of the network is to detect and characterize a large number of extra-solar planets transiting nearby bright stars, and to explore their diversity. Operation of HAT-South is a collaboration among the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) and the Australian National University (ANU). The network is expected to be ready for initial science operations in 2009. The three sites will permit near round-the-clock monitoring of selected fields, and the continuous data-stream will greatly enhance recovery of transits. HAT-South will be sensitive to planetary transits down to R≈14 across a 128 square-degrees combined field of view, thereby targeting a large number of dwarfs with feasible confirmation-mode follow-up. We anticipate a yearly detection rate of approximately 25 planets transiting bright stars.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 05/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: A number of microlensing dark-matter surveys have produced tens of millions of light curves of individual background stars. These data provide an unprecedented opportunity for systematic studies of whole classes of variable stars and their host galaxies. We aim to use the EROS-2 survey of the Magellanic Clouds to detect and study the population of beat Cepheids (BCs) in both Clouds. BCs pulsating simultaneously in the first overtone and fundamental modes (FO/F) or in the second and first overtone modes (SO/FO) are of particular interest. Using special software designed to search for periodic variables, we have scanned the EROS-2 data base for variables in the typical period range of Cepheids. Metallicities of FO/F objects were then calculated from linear nonadiabatic convective stellar models. We identify 74 FO/F BCs in the LMC and 41 in the SMC, and 173 and 129 SO/FO pulsators in the LMC and SMC, respectively; 185 of these stars are new discoveries. For nearly all the FO/F objects we determine minimum, mean, and maximum values of the metallicity. The EROS data have expanded the samples of known BCs in the LMC by 31%, in the SMC by 110%. The FO/F objects provide independent measures of metallicities in these galaxies. The mean value of metallicity is 0.0045 in the LMC and 0.0018 in the SMC. Comment: 10 pages, 7 figures, accepted for publication in A&A
    01/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: Context: .The OGLE-II event sc5_2859 was previously identified as the third longest microlensing event ever observed. Aims: .Additional photometric observations from the EROS (Expérience de Recherche d'Objets Sombres) survey and spectroscopic observations of the candidate star are used to test the microlensing hypothesis. Methods: .The combined OGLE and EROS data provide a high quality coverage of the light curve. The colour of the sc5_2859 event is seen to change with time. A spectrum taken in 2003 exhibits a strong Halpha emission line. Results: .The additionnal data show that the OGLE-II sc5_2859 event is actually a classical nova outburst.
    01/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: We are conducting a $377^{\circ 2}$ proper motion survey in the ~V and I bands in order to determine the cool white dwarf contribution to the Galactic dark matter. Using the $250^{\circ 2}$ for which we possess three epochs, and applying selection criteria designed to isolate halo-type objects, we find no candidates in a $5500\,{\rm pc}^3$ effective volume for old, fast $M_V=17$ white dwarfs. We check the detection efficiency by cross-matching our catalogue with Luyten's NLTT catalogue. The halo white dwarf contribution cannot exceed 5% (95% C.L.) for objects with and . The same conclusion applies to a 14 Gyr halo composed of white dwarfs with hydrogen atmosphere, as modeled by Chabrier.

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20020827. 01/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: the EROS-2 project has been designed to search for microlensing events towards any dense stellar field. The densest parts of the Galactic spiral arms have been monitored to maximize the microlensing signal expected from the stars of the Galactic disk and bulge. 12.9 million stars have been monitored during 7 seasons towards 4 directions in the Galactic plane, away from the Galactic center. A total of 27 microlensing event candidates have been found. Estimates of the optical depths from the 22 best events are provided. A first order interpretation shows that simple Galactic models with a standard disk and an elongated bulge without a thick disk or a spiral structure are in agreement with our observations. We find that the average microlensing optical depth towards the complete EROS-cataloged stars of the spiral arms is $\bar{\tau} =0.51\pm .13\times 10^{-6}$, a number that is stable when the selection criteria are moderately varied. As the EROS catalog is almost complete up to $I_C=18.5$, the optical depth estimated for the sub-sample of bright target stars with $I_C<18.5$ ($\bar{\tau}=0.39\pm .11\times 10^{-6}$) is easier to interpret. The set of microlensing events that we have observed is consistent with a simple Galactic model. A more precise interpretation would require either a better knowledge of the distance distribution of the target stars, or a simulation based on a Galactic model. For this purpose, we define and discuss the concept of optical depth for a given catalog or for a limiting magnitude.
    01/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: We attempt to identify all microlensing parallax events for which the parallax fit improves Δχ2 > 100 relative to a standard microlensing model. We outline a procedure to identify three types of discrete degeneracies (including a new one that we dub the "ecliptic degeneracy") and find many new degenerate solutions in 16 previously published and six unpublished events. Only four events have one unique solution, and the other 18 events have a total of 44 solutions. Our sample includes three previously identified black hole (BH) candidates. We consider the newly discovered degenerate solutions and determine the relative likelihood that each of these is a BH. We find that the lens of event MACHO-99-BLG-22 is a strong BH candidate (78%), event MACHO-96-BLG-5 is a marginal BH candidate (37%), and MACHO-98-BLG-6 is a weak BH candidate (2.2%). The lens of event OGLE-2003-BLG-84 may be a Jupiter-mass free-floating planet candidate based on a weak 3 σ detection of finite-source effects. We find that event MACHO-179-A is a brown dwarf candidate within ~100 pc of the Sun, mostly due to its very small projected Einstein radius, E = 0.23 ± 0.05 AU. As expected, these microlensing parallax events are biased toward lenses that are heavier and closer than average. These events were examined for xallarap (or binary-source motion), which can mimic parallax. We find that 23% of these events are strongly affected by xallarap.
    The Astrophysical Journal 12/2008; 633(2):914. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: For seven years, the EROS-2 project obtained a mass of photometric data on variable stars. We present a peculiar Cepheid-like star, in the direction of the Small Magellanic Cloud, which demonstrates unusual photometric behaviour over a short time interval. We report on data of the photometry acquired by the MARLY telescope and spectroscopy from the EFOSC instrument for this star, called EROS2 J005135-714459(sm0060n13842), which resembles the unusual Cepheid HR 7308. The light curve of our target is analysed using the Analysis of Variance method to determine a pulsational period of 5.5675 days. A fit of time-dependent Fourier coefficients is performed and a search for proper motion is conducted. The light curve exhibits a previously unobserved and spectacular change in both mean magnitude and amplitude, which has no clear theoretical explanation. Our analysis of the spectrum implies a radial velocity of 104 km s$^{-1}$ and a metallicity of -0.4$\pm$0.2 dex. In the direction of right ascension, we measure a proper motion of 17.4$\pm$6.0 mas yr$^{-1}$ using EROS astrometry, which is compatible with data from the NOMAD catalogue. The nature of EROS2 J005135-714459(sm0060n13842) remains unclear. For this star, we may have detected a non-zero proper motion for this star, which would imply that it is a foreground object. Its radial velocity, pulsational characteristics, and photometric data, however, suggest that it is instead a Cepheid-like object located in the SMC. In such a case, it would present a challenge to conventional Cepheid models. Comment: Correction of typos in the abstract
    05/2008;
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    ABSTRACT: Rare types of variable star may give unique insight into short-lived stages of stellar evolution. The systematic monitoring of millions of stars and advanced light curve analysis techniques of microlensing surveys make them ideal for discovering also such rare variable stars. One example is the R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars, a rare type of evolved carbon-rich supergiant. We have conducted a systematic search of the EROS-2 database for the Galactic catalogue Bulge and spiral arms to find Galactic RCB stars. The light curves of $\sim$100 million stars, monitored for 6.7 years (from July 1996 to February 2003), have been analysed to search for the main signature of RCB stars, large and rapid drops in luminosity. Follow-up spectroscopy has been used to confirm the photometric candidates. We have discovered 14 new RCB stars, all in the direction of the Galactic Bulge, bringing the total number of confirmed Galactic RCB stars to about 51. After reddening correction, the colours and absolute magnitudes of at least 9 of the stars are similar to those of Magellanic RCB stars. This suggests that these stars are in fact located in the Galactic Bulge, making them the first RCB stars discovered in the Bulge. The localisation of the 5 remaining RCBs is more uncertain: 4 are either located behind the Bulge at an estimated maximum distance of 14 kpc or have an unusual thick circumstellar shell; the other is a DY Per RCB which may be located in the Bulge, even if it is fainter than the known Magellanic DY Per. From the small scale height found using the 9 new Bulge RCBs, $61<h^{RCB}_{Bulge}<246$ pc (95% C.L.), we conclude that the RCB stars follow a disk-like distribution inside the Bulge. Comment: 20 pages, 26 figures, Accepted in A&A
    01/2008;
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    ABSTRACT: We present a new EROS-2 measurement of the microlensing optical depth toward the Galactic Bulge. Light curves of $5.6\times 10^{6}$ clump-giant stars distributed over $66 \deg^2$ of the Bulge were monitored during seven Bulge seasons. 120 events were found with apparent amplifications greater than 1.6 and Einstein radius crossing times in the range $5 {\rm d}<t_\e <400 {\rm d}$. This is the largest existing sample of clump-giant events and the first to include northern Galactic fields. In the Galactic latitude range $1.4\degr<|b|<7.0\degr$, we find $\tau/10^{-6}=(1.62 \pm 0.23)\exp[-a(|b|-3 {\rm deg})]$ with $a=(0.43 \pm0.16)\deg^{-1}$. These results are in good agreement with our previous measurement, with recent measurements of the MACHO and OGLE-II groups, and with predictions of Bulge models. Comment: accepted A&A, minor revisions
    01/2006;
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    ABSTRACT: Microlensing event MACHO 97-SMC-1 is one of the rare microlensing events for which the source is a variable star, simply because most variable stars are systematically eliminated from microlensing studies. Using observational data for this event, we show that the intrinsic variability of a microlensed star is a powerful tool for constraining the nature of the lens by breaking the degeneracy between the microlens parallax and the blended light. We also present a statistical test for discriminating the location of the lens based on the chi2 contours of the vector Lambda, the inverse of the projected velocity. We find that while SMC self-lensing is somewhat favored over halo lensing, neither location can be ruled out with good confidence.
    01/2006;
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    ABSTRACT: Aims. The EROS-2 project was designed to test the hypothesis that massive compact halo objects (the so-called “machos”) could be a major component of the dark matter halo of the Milky Way galaxy. To this end, EROS-2 monitored over 6.7 years $33\times10^6$ stars in the Magellanic clouds for microlensing events caused by such objects. Methods. In this work, we use only a subsample of $7\times10^6$ bright stars spread over $84\,\rm deg^2$ of the LMC and $9\,\rm deg^2$ of the SMC. The strategy of using only bright stars helps to discriminate against background events due to variable stars and allows a simple determination of the effects of source confusion (blending). The use of a large solid angle makes the survey relatively insensitive to effects that could make the optical depth strongly direction dependent. Results. Using this sample of bright stars, only one candidate event was found, whereas ~$39$ events would have been expected if the Halo were entirely populated by objects of mass $M\sim0.4~M_{\odot}$. Combined with the results of EROS-1, this implies that the optical depth toward the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) due to such lenses is $\tau<0.36\times10^{-7}$ (95% CL), corresponding to a fraction of the halo mass of less than 8%. This optical depth is considerably less than that measured by the MACHO collaboration in the central region of the LMC. More generally, machos in the mass range $0.6\times10^{-7}M_\odot<M<15~M_{\odot}$ are ruled out as the primary occupants of the Milky Way Halo.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20066017. 01/2006;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the type Ia rate measurement based on two EROS supernova search campaigns (in 1999 and 2000). Sixteen supernovae identified as type Ia were discovered. The measurement of the detection efficiency, using a Monte Carlo simulation, provides the type Ia supernova explosion rate at a redshift ~ 0.13. The result is $0.125^{+0.044+0.028}_{-0.034-0.028} h_{70}^2$ SNu where 1 SNu = 1 SN / $10^{10} L_{sun}^B$ / century. This value is compatible with the previous EROS measurement (Hardin et al. 2000), done with a much smaller sample, at a similar redshift. Comparison with other values at different redshifts suggests an evolution of the type Ia supernova rate. Comment: Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics (15 pages, 16 figures)
    05/2004;