Astronomers witness giant star’s explosive death

For the first time ever, scientists were able to see the final moments of a red supergiant star as it exploded into a supernova.

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Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley watched the star for its final 130 days by remotely controlling equipment at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, according to a release by Northwestern University.

“This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before they die,” Wynn Jacobson-Galán, the study’s lead author said in a statement.

Scientists first spotted the star in 2020. The star was in a galaxy about 120 million light-years away, but the data from the Hawaii observatory showed the star had become much brighter than usual, NBC News reported. The team continued to watch the star after the explosion, and based on data they believe the star was 10 times more massive than the sun, according to a release from the W.M. Keck Observatory.

Supernovas are the final stages of many stars, creating clouds of gas and dust that then coalesce into younger stars, like the sun, NBC News reported.

The discovery was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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