VY Canis Majoris dies as astronomers watch and ‘Bet’ on possible outcome

(ORDO NEWS) — 3D models of astronomical objects can be incredibly complex and therefore full simulations are only performed for a limited number of celestial bodies.

In a new study, astronomers from the University of Arizona, USA, have developed a highly complex model of VY Canis Major, a red hypergiant that may be the largest star in the Milky Way. This model will be used to elucidate the death mechanism of this star.

The death of red hypergiants causes a lot of controversy among astronomers. At first, the researchers assumed that these stars simply explode as supernovae, and indeed, a large number of stars of this class complete their life cycle in this way.

However, recent data show a significant shortage of supernovae compared to the number required, assuming that each hypergiant explodes as a supernova at the end of its life cycle.

According to modern theory, the collapse of a hypergiant into a black hole seems more likely, which is much more difficult to observe directly than supernovae that were originally assumed.

It remains unclear exactly what characteristics of a star contribute to its transformation into a black hole, and to find out, scientists need a detailed mathematical model.

Having set this goal, a team of astronomers from the University of Arizona, led by A.P. VY Canis Majoris was chosen by AP Singh as an adequate replacement for the type of hypergiants that needed to be studied.

This star is very massive, and its size is from 10 to 15 astronomical units (1 AU is equal to the average distance from the Earth to the Sun), but it is only 3009 light years away from the solar system, that is, it is relatively close from us on a galactic scale.

This star is well observed from the Southern Hemisphere, and it is possible to build very complex and complete computer models for it.

One of the fundamental processes leading to the death of a star is the loss of mass. This usually happens when gas and dust are evenly blown out of the star’s photosphere.

However, in the case of the VY Canis Major star, large formations are observed in the structure of the star, resembling coronal loops on the Sun, increased in size by a billion times.

To build the model, Singh and his colleagues used the ALMA observatory to collect radio signals emitted by the material that is ejected into space as part of these eruptions.

This material, including sulfur dioxide, silicon dioxide, and sodium chloride, allowed them not only to determine the static presence of another material, such as dust, but also to measure the velocity of material flows.

To establish this speed, the authors coordinated all 48 ALMA dish antennas and directed them to the observed source, as a result of which over one terabyte of data was collected, which made it possible to calculate the required speeds with the required accuracy.

Currently, scientists are working on creating more advanced algorithms to process such a huge amount of collected observational data.


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