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Astronomers have identified the star that may be responsible for a supernova discovered by skywatchers last week.
The supernova popped up in the galaxy M95 about 33 million light-years from Earth. It was first reported last week by a several different observers and soon confirmed by major observatories. Now a team led by Nancy Elias-Rosa of Spain’s Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia has compared new photos of the exploded star with pictures taken before the supernova occurred to identify what could very well have been the culprit star. The current picture was taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea peak. The researchers compared this with archived photos of the M95 galaxy taken by the Hubble Space Telescope years earlier. As said University of California, Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko, a member of Elias-Rosa’s team by lining up the stars that surround the supernova in the new picture and the old picture, you can then see what, if anything, was at the position of the supernova in the old Hubble picture. What they found is a star that looks like it’s a red supergiant. The unnamed suspect was a massive star in the late stages of evolution. It is these types of stars that are thought to run out of fuel for the nuclear fusion that powers their cores, then collapse in on themselves to become black holes or neutron stars, releasing huge amounts of energy in luminous explosions seen around the universe. The recent measurements, which break up light into its constituent wavelengths, show that the supernova contains hydrogen, classifying it as a Type II supernova. But have to add that the images aren’t precise enough to confirm that this star was the source of the blast. The team has plans to observe the spot again early next week using the adaptive optics system on the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea.
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