Unique observations of a massive star before an explosion are changing the understanding of stellar evolution

(ORDO NEWS) — For the first time, astronomers were able to observe in real time the spectacular end of the red giant, witnessing the rapid self-destruction of a massive star and its death throes before collapsing into a Type II supernova.

Using two telescopes located in Hawaii – the Pan-STARRS and the WM Keck Observatory – the Young Supernova Experiment (YSE) team of researchers observed this red giant over the last 130 days of its existence, after which there was a supernova explosion.

“This is a breakthrough in understanding the last moments of the life cycle of massive stars,” said Wynn Jacobson-Gal├ín of the University of California, USA, who is the main author of the new study. for the case of an ordinary type II supernova. This is the first time we’ve seen the explosion of a red giant! ”

The Pan-STARRS Observatory first spotted this doomed massive star in the summer of 2020 from the massive amount of light emitted from the red giant. A few months after that, in the fall of 2020, a supernova lit up the sky.

The team quickly captured the powerful flash and captured its spectra in the very first moments using the Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS) at the Observatory. Keck.

The data obtained indicated dense circumstellar material surrounding the star during the explosion, which, apparently, was the same gas that was captured by the Pan-STARRS telescope, which observed a little earlier, in the summer, powerful ejections from the red giant.

The team continued to observe the outburst, dubbed SN 2020tlf, to provide information on the parent star. According to the authors, the red supergiant that gave rise to the SN 2020tlf flare was located in the galaxy NGC 5731, at a distance of about 120 million light years from us, and had a mass of about 10 solar masses.

The study challenges current pre-explosion models of red giant evolution, as such stars were previously thought to remain calm at the end of their life cycle, while the supernova SN 2020tlf progenitor star was observed to be very active, the authors noted.

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