Context: The nature of the progenitors of type Ia supernova (SN) progenitors remains unclear. While it is usually agreed that single-degenerate progenitor systems would be luminous supersoft X-ray sources (SSSs), it was recently suggested that double-degenerate progenitors might also go through a SSS phase. Aims: We aim to examine the possibility of double-degenerate progenitor systems being SSSs, and place stringent upper limits on the maximally possible durations of any SSS phases and expected number of these systems in a galactic population. Method: We employ the binary population synthesis code SeBa to examine the mass-transfer characteristics of a possible SSS phase of double-degenerate type Ia SN progenitor systems for 1) the standard SeBa assumptions, and 2) an optimistic best-case scenario. The latter case establishes firm upper limits on the possible population of supersoft source double-degenerate type Ia SN progenitor systems. Results: Our results indicate that unlike what is expected for single-degenerate progenitor systems, the vast majority of the material accreted by either pure wind mass transfer or a combination of wind and RLOF mass transfer is helium rather than hydrogen. Even with extremely optimistic assumptions concerning the mass-transfer and retention efficiencies, the average mass accreted by systems that eventually become double-degenerate type Ia SNe is small. Consequently, the lengths of time that these systems may be SSSs are short, even under optimal conditions, and the expected number of such systems in a galactic population is negligible. Conclusions: The population of double-degenerate type Ia SN progenitors that are SSSs is at least an order of magnitude smaller than the population of single-degenerate progenitors expected to be SSSs, and the supersoft X-ray behaviour of double-degenerate systems typically ceases long before the SN explosions.
Date added: Wed, 9 Oct 13