Astronomers have just announced that they have observed a red supergiant star exploding into a supernova for the first time ever. Officially named supernova (SN) 2020tlf, it was studied for 130 days leading up to the explosion, which showed the death of a star, about 10 times more massive than our own Sun, approximately 120 million light-years away from Earth in the NGC 5731 galaxy. Read more for a video and additional information.
The observation employed two telescopes – the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy Pan-STARRS on Haleakalā, Maui, and the WM Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii Island – and we now know that red supergiants undergo massive internal changes before transitioning into supernovas. An extreme level of radiated light alerted astronomers to this event, and astronomers continued to monitor the supernova for 300-days after the explosion.
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This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before they die. 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!,” said Wynn Jacobson-Galán, an astronomer from the University of California, Berkeley, and the study’s lead author.