The Last Big Bump Before a Supernova Explodes

The Last Big Bump Before a Supernova Explodes

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An automated supernova hunt is shedding new light on the death sequence of massive stars — specifically, the kind that self-destruct in Type IIn supernova explosions.

Digging through the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) data archive housed at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), astronomers have found the first causal evidence that these massive stars shed huge amounts of material in a “penultimate outburst” before final detonation as supernovae.

A focused search for Type IIn SN precursor bursts, conducted by Eran Ofek of Israel’s Weizmann Institute and the PTF team, led to this finding. Their results were published in the February 7, 2013 issue of Nature. PTF is an international collaboration that brings together researchers, universities, observatories and Berkeley Lab to hunt for supernovae and other astronomical objects.

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