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The visual light curves of the different supernova types vary in shape and amplitude, based on the underlying mechanisms of the explosion, the way that visible radiation is produced, and the transparency of the ejected material. The light curves can be significantly different at other wavelengths.

For example, at UV and shorter wavelengths there is an extremely luminous peak lasting just a few hours, corresponding to the shock breakout of the initial explosion, which is hardly detectable at longer wavelengths.