Massive stars emit sounds warning they are about to go supernova

(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers from Liverpool’s John Moores University and the University of Montpellier have developed an “early warning” system that sounds an alarm when a massive star is about to end its life in a supernova explosion.

In a new study, scientists have determined that massive stars (typically between 8 and 20 solar masses) in the last phase of their lives, the so-called “red supergiant” phase, will suddenly become about a hundred times fainter in visible light in the last few months before dying.

This dimming is caused by a sudden accumulation of material around the star, which dims its light.

Until now, it was not known how long it took the star to fuse this material. Now, for the first time, researchers have modeled what red supergiants might look like when they are inside these pre-explosion “cocoons”.

Old telescope archives show that there are images of stars that exploded about a year after the image was taken.

The stars in these images look normal, meaning they have not yet built a theoretical circumstellar cocoon. This suggests that the cocoon is assembled in less than a year, which is considered extremely fast.

Benjamin Davies of Liverpool’s John Moores University and lead author of the paper says: “Dense material almost completely obscures the star, making it 100 times dimmer in the visible spectrum.

This means that the day before the explosion of a star, it cannot be seen, if it is there. Until now, we have been able to get detailed observations of supernovae only a few hours after they have already occurred.

With an early warning system, we can be ready to watch them in real time to point the world’s best telescopes at the stars and watch them literally explode before our eyes.”

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