I'm not sure why type Ia supernova reaches its peak magnitude 15-20 days after the explosion. Is this luminosity generated only by the radioactive decay of nickel-56 to cobalt-56?(considering a half-life, I don't think the decay to iron-56 can be involved with it) Or is there any combination that produces the peak luminosity?
The early light curve of a Type Ia SN (i.e., the fact that the brightness increases to a peak, then declines) is the result of the combination of two things, both of which are decreasing over time: energy from the decay of Ni-56 to Co-56 (and Co-56 to Fe-56), and the opacity of the explosion as it expands.
Just after the actual explosion, the expanding fireball is dense and opaque. Only light from the very outermost layer escapes to the outside.[*] Since the Ni-56 created in the thermonuclear burning that caused the explosion is in the interior regions, the initially visible part of the expanding fireball has little or no Ni-56, and thus no energy from its decay.
As the fireball expands, it gets less dense, and thus less opaque, to the point where light from the layers heated by radioactive decay can actually escape. Over time, more and more of the inner part of the fireball becomes visible, and so we see more and more of the regions where Ni-56 (and its daughter product Co-56) is decaying. Roughly speaking, the peak of the light curve is when the opacity is low enough that all the light from the Ni-56 + Co-56 decay can escape.[**]
But since there are fewer and fewer radioactive nuclei as time goes by, the amount of energy produced by the decay decreases with time. This is why the light curve turns over: now we're seeing all the light produced by Ni-56 and Co-56 decay, but that just keeps getting fainter over time.
[*] At this point, the SN is too faint to be seen. Even the initial thermonuclear explosion is too faint to be seen under most circumstances.
[**] Ni-56 and Co-56 actually produce gamma rays (and energetic positrons) when they decay, so what "the light from Ni-56 + Co-56 decay" means is thermal radiation from the gas heated by the gamma rays. Also, as I understand it, what we're seeing is really the combination of energy from current decay and residual heat from previous radioactive decay.
SN Ia is a thermonuclear explosion. At very early time, Ni-56 is the main source of energy. Since the hard photons from the Ni-56 decay have to travel from the inside out, they interact with ejecta. The diffusion timescale due mainly to the mass of ejecta determines the peak timescale of a light curve. Check Arnett 1980, 1982.
Fe-56 is not radioactive. Co-56 supplies energy at later times after the peak.