Astronomers watched a giant star explode in a fiery supernova for the first time ever — and the sight was even more explosive than researchers expected.
Scientists have begun watching the doomed star – a red supergiant named SN 2020tlf located about 120 million away. light years From the earth – More than 100 days before the final violent meltdown, according to a new study published Jan. 6 Astrophysical Journal. During that earlier period, the researchers saw the star explode with flashes of bright light as huge balls of gas exploded from the star’s surface.
The researchers said that these fireworks that existed before the supernova came as a big surprise, as previous observations of red giants about to explode their tops showed no traces of violent emissions.
Study lead author Wynn Jacobson-Galán, a UC Berkeley researcher, said: statment. “For the first time, we watched a red giant star explode!”
When the big stars bloom
Red giant planets are the largest stars in the universe by size, with a radius of hundreds or sometimes more than a thousand times. (Although they may be massive, red giant stars aren’t the brightest or most massive stars out there.)
Like our sun, these massive stars generate energy through nuclear energy fusion of the elements in their cores. But because it is so large, giant red giants can form elements much heavier than hydrogen And helium That our sun is burning. When giant beings burn ever more massive elements, their cores get hotter and more compact. In the end, by the time they start integrating iron And nickel, these stars run out of energy, their cores collapse and their gaseous outer atmosphere is ejected into space in a violent Type II supernova explosion.
Scientists noticed the presence of red giants before they transformed into a supernova, and studied the ramifications of these cosmic explosions – however, they haven’t seen the whole process work in real time yet.
The authors of the new study began observing SN 2020tlf in the summer of 2020, when the star flashed a bright radioactive flash that the team later interpreted as gas erupting from the star’s surface. Using two telescopes in Hawaii – the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope and the WM Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea – the researchers monitored the eccentric star for 130 days. Finally, towards the end of that period, the star went to boom.
The researchers said the team saw evidence of a thick cloud of gas surrounding the star at the time of its explosion – likely the same gas the star had released in previous months. This indicates that the star began experiencing violent outbursts long before its core collapsed in the fall of 2020.
“We’ve never confirmed such violent activity in a dying red giant star as we see it produce such a luminous emission, then collapse and burn, until now,” said study co-author Raffaella Margotti, an astrophysicist at UC Berkeley. statment.
The team concluded that these observations indicate that the red giant planets undergo significant changes in their internal structures, resulting in chaotic explosions of gas in the final months before the collapse.
Originally published on Live Science.