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Home Latest Science With the help of Hawaii telescopes, researchers make a ‘breakthrough’ discovery

With the help of Hawaii telescopes, researchers make a ‘breakthrough’ discovery


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Astronomers utilizing Hawaii telescopes say they’ve witnessed something astounding.

In a discovery truly out of this world, researchers with Keck Observatory said they watched, for the first time, the death of a star.

Using the technology of telescopes on Mauna Kea and Haleakala, they logged what happened in the days leading up to the red supergiant’s end, saying it was an episode of “rapid self-destruction” before collapsing into a type II supernova.

“This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before they die,” says Wynn Jacobson-Galán, an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at UC Berkeley and lead author of the study.

“Direct detection of pre-supernova activity in a red supergiant star has never been observed before in an ordinary Type II supernova. For the first time, we watched a red supergiant star explode!” Jacobson-Galán added.

Their findings were published in Wednesday’s ‘The Atrophysical Journal.’

They first noticed the supergiant mid-2020 thanks to large amounts of light radiating from the star. A few months later in the fall, the sky was lit by a supernova.

“The team quickly captured the powerful flash and obtained the very first spectrum of the energetic explosion, named supernova 2020tlf, or SN 2020tlf, using Keck Observatory’s Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer,” Keck officials said in a news release.

Monitoring of the celestial being — believed to be about 120 million lightyears away from Earth and 10 times larger than the sun — continued as they gathered more data.

“Keck was instrumental in providing direct evidence of a massive star transitioning into a supernova explosion,” says senior author Raffaella Margutti, an associate professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley. “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.”

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