“Like a witness to a violent death, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently gave astronomers a comprehensive and unprecedented view of the first moments of a star’s cataclysmic disappearance“, declares a statement from NASA on October 21, 2021. Thanks to observations from the famous (and aging) telescope, and to previous work from space and terrestrial telescopes, astronomers could detect in advance, the death of a star.
“The death of a supernova in real time”
“We used to talk about supernova work like we were crime scene investigators, where we would show up after the fact and try to figure out what had happened to that star “, explained Ryan Foley Professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, at the origin of the discovery. “It’s a different situation because we really know what’s going on and we actually see death in real time.“
The “Rosetta Stone of the Supernovas”
The supernova in question is located at 60 million light years in the Papillon galaxies, (constellation Virgo). Highlighted by the Hubble Telescope in April 2020, it was baptized SN2020fqv. But the researchers dubbed it the “supernova rosette stone“, because of the three different methods used to determine its mass of the star.
“This is the first time that we have been able to verify the mass with these three different methods for a supernova … Now we can go ahead using these different methods and combining them, because there are a lot of ‘other supernovae where we have masses supplied by one method but not by another. “
An analysis of circumstellar matter
Other satellites have also been mobilized as part of its observation in order to have a more global view of the star, before, during and after the explosion. It is the study of circumstellar matter, (matter ejected during its end of life), which made it possible to better understand the environment and the evolution of the supernova.
“We rarely have the opportunity to examine the very near circumstellar material because it is only visible for a very short time, and we usually don’t start seeing a supernova until at least a few days after the explosion.”, said the astrophysicist and main author of the article published in the MNRAS, Samaporn Tinyanont.