New system created to watch stars dying- 'literally ripped apart in front of our eyes'

Scientists have formed a new early warning system to capture the last moment of a dying star in a Supernova explosion.

| Updated on: Oct 18 2022, 10:50 IST
Supernova explosions
Now, scientists can detect the last moment of dying stars. (NASA)
Supernova explosions
Now, scientists can detect the last moment of dying stars. (NASA)

Death of stars has always been mysterious for astronomers. However, astronomers from the Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and the University of Montpellier have developed an “early warning” system that can alert astronomers about the death of a massive star in a supernova explosion. Until now, it has been difficult to observe the moment of a star explosion. But for the first time, researchers have simulated the sudden death of a star's demise. Researchers have found that when a star is in the "red supergiant" phase i.e, the last phase of its life, dense material gets accumulated around it making it drastically dimmer.

For the first time, researchers have discovered how such massive stars fade away and disappear as they enter a pre-explosion phase. The new research is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Ben Davies, corresponding author of the research article, said, “The dense material almost completely obscures the star, making it 100 times fainter in the visible part of the spectrum. This means that the day before the star explodes, you likely wouldn't be able to see it was there,”

Prior to the new research, astronomers were unsure about how long it took that sort-of "cocoon" of dense material to gather. As most late-life images of stars are captured about a year before their explosion and hence, the stars weren't surrounded by material, said Moores.

This means that the cocoon is formed in less than a year, which is akin to the blink of an eye in the cosmic context.

“Until now, we've only been able to get detailed observations of supernovae hours after they've already happened. With this early-warning system we can get ready to observe it in real-time, to point the world's best telescopes at it, and watch the surface of the star getting literally ripped apart in front of our eyes,” added Davies.

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First Published Date: 18 Oct, 10:36 IST