Astronomers witness red supergiant star’s death for the first time

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Astronomers have captured the death of a red supergiant star for the first time. 

The real-time discovery was revealed Jan. 6 in Astrophysical Journal and led by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley. 

According to a press release from Northwestern, the crew noticed the red supergiant throughout the final 130 days earlier than it collapsed right into a Type II supernova. 

Previous observations confirmed that red supergiants had been comparatively inactive earlier than their deaths, with none proof of violent eruptions or luminous emissions. 

These researchers, nonetheless, detected shiny radiation from a red supergiant in the last yr earlier than exploding. 

“This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before they die,” Wynn Jacobson-Galán, the study’s lead author, mentioned in a press release. “Direct detection of pre-supernova activity in a red supergiant star has never been observed before in an ordinary type II supernova. For the first time, we watched a red supergiant star explode.”

The work – which was performed at Northwestern earlier than Jacobson-Galán moved to UC Berkeley – means that no less than some stars should bear vital modifications of their inside construction, resulting in the ejection of fuel forward of their collapse.

The star was first detected in summer time 2020 by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy Pan-STARRS and the group captured its flash a number of months later. 

The spectrum of supernova 2020tlf was taken utilizing the W.M. Keck Observatory’s Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer

The information revealed proof of dense circumstellar materials round the star at the time of the explosion. 

Further monitoring post-explosion and extra information from Keck Observatory’s Deep Imaging and Multi-Object Spectrograph and Near Infrared Echellette Spectrograph helped researchers to find out SN 2020tlf’s progenitor red supergiant star was 10 instances extra large than the sun.

“I am most excited by all of the new ‘unknowns’ that have been unlocked by this discovery,” Jacobson-Galán mentioned. “Detecting more events like SN 2020tlf will dramatically impact how we define the final months of stellar evolution, uniting observers and theorists in the quest to solve the mystery on how massive stars spend the final moments of their lives.”

The research was supported by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Villum Fonden.

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