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Astronomers Watch a Star Die and Then Explode as a Supernova

12 Jan 2022, 18:00 UTC
Astronomers Watch a Star Die and Then Explode as a Supernova
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It’s another first for astronomy.

For the first time, a team of astronomers have imaged in real-time as a red supergiant star reached the end of its life. They watched as the star convulsed in its death throes before finally exploding as a supernova.

And their observations contradict previous thinking into how red supergiants behave before they blow up.

A team of astronomers watched the drama unfold through the eyes of two observatories in Hawaii: Pan-STARRS on Haleakala, Maui, and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii Island. Their observations were part of the Young Supernova Experiment (YSE) transient survey. They watched the supernova explosion, named SN 2020tlf, during the final 130 days leading up to its detonation.

“For the first time, we watched a red supergiant star explode!” Wynn Jacobson-Galán, UC Berkeley

The title of the paper presenting the discovery is “Final Moments. I. Precursor Emission, Envelope Inflation, and Enhanced Mass Loss Preceding the Luminous Type II Supernova 2020tlf.” The paper is published in The Astrophysical Journal and the lead author is Wynn Jacobson-Galán, an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at UC Berkeley.

“This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before ...

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