The nearest supernova of the decade threw off mass before the explosion

The study of the supernova SN 2023ixf, which flared up this year in the Pinwheel galaxy, showed that the red giant that gave birth to it threw a mass equivalent to the sun into space before the explosion. Scientists do not know the reason for this phenomenon.

Supernova. Source:

Nearest supernova to us

Scientists discovered an amazing thing about what happened to the giant star before it exploded as a supernova SN 2023ixf. This amazing phenomenon was discovered in May 2023 by Japanese astronomer Kōichi Itagaki.

The flare occurred in one of the spiral arms of the galaxy M101, also known as the “Pinwheel”. Despite the fact that this star system is located 20 million light-years away from us, this flare became the closest and brightest in the XXI century.

Later it became clear that this supernova belonged to Type II. It was generated by a massive red supergiant, which was quite typical for this type of event. But new research published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters adds unusual new details to this.

Loss of mass by a star

Multispectral studies carried out using the 1.5-meter Tillinghast telescope and the 1.2-meter telescope and MMT at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory showed that at the very beginning of the flare, the breakthrough of the shock wave front was delayed for several days. 

From the point of view of physics, this was a very strange phenomenon. And scientists who studied photos of the star taken before the explosion found an equally strange explanation for it. About a year before that, the supergiant had lost a significant part of its mass, which was approximately equal to the solar one. Scientists do not know the reasons for this, but they assume that it is somehow connected with the beginning of the burning of silicon in the core, which marks the last stages of the existence of the luminary.

SN 2023ixf casts doubt on astronomers’ understanding of the evolution of massive stars and supernovae as they become. Despite the fact that scientists know that supernovae with core collapse are the primary sources of cosmic formation and evolution of atoms, neutron stars and black holes, very little is known about the years preceding supernova explosions.

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