Violently exploding red supergiant star imaged for the first time

Astronomers have observed for the first time a red supergiant star explosively dying and leaving behind a supernova, SN 2020tlf.

Published Jan 7, 2022 3:30 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Feb 1 2022 11:02 PM CST
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A study regarding the monumental discovery was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Violently exploding red supergiant star imaged for the first time 01 |

Astronomers used two Hawaiian telescopes, based at the University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy Pan-STARRS on Haleakala, Maui and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawai'i Island, to observe the last 130 days of a red supergiant's life.

The research team observed the star's collapse into a Type II supernova while conducting the Young Supernova Experiment (YSE) transient survey, the first observation of its kind. The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) detected the star in mid-2020, and a few months later, a supernova had taken its place, designated supernova 2020tlf, or SN 2020tlf.

"Keck was instrumental in providing direct evidence of a massive star transitioning into a supernova explosion. It's like watching a ticking time bomb. We've never confirmed such violent activity in a dying red supergiant star where we see it produce such a luminous emission, then collapse and combust, until now," said Raffaella Margutti, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley and the study's senior author.

You can read more from the study here.

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