Dramatic star death and supernova explosion observed by astronomers for the first time ever

ASTRONOMERS have observed a red giant star dying in real-time in a world first.

The experts were able to image the star's death throes and eventual supernova explosion.

The observation has taught us more about how supergiant stars die and contradicted previous theories.

Researchers used two observatories in Hawaii to watch the stunning celestial event.

The supernova explosion was named SN 2020tlf and the star was observed dying for 130 days before this.

Details about the star's death have just been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Lead author Wynn Jacobson-Galán said: "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.

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"For the first time, we watched a red supergiant star explode!"

In 2020, a dramatic rise in brightness was detected at the star, suggesting it could die soon.

The "peak luminosity" of a supernova is comparable to an entire galaxy, before fading over several weeks or months.

A few months later the star was collapsing in on itself before eventually bursting into a powerful supernova explosion.

Senior study author Raffaella Margutti said: "It’s like watching a ticking time bomb. We’ve never confirmed such violent activity in a dying red supergiant star where we see it produce such a luminous emission, then collapse and combust, until now."

The observed supernova was labelled as a Type II because the collapse of the star was so rapid and violent.

Prior to this study, a red supergiant had never been observed peaking at such a brightness and exploding so powerfully.

Previously, stars were thought to accept their deaths in a much more placid manner.

A powerful burst of light that came from the star before it exploded is still baffling the scientists.

They think something we don't yet understand what was happening to its internal structure.

The research was conducted as part of the Young Supernova Experiment, which continues to look for similar star explosions.

Jacobson-Galán said: "I am most excited by all of the new ‘unknowns’ that have been unlocked by this discovery.

"Detecting more events like SN 2020tlf will dramatically impact how we define the final months of stellar evolution, uniting observers and theorists in the quest to solve the mystery of how massive stars spend the final moments of their lives."

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In other news, one of the world's most sensitive telescopes has been hunting for signs of alien life in the stars.

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And, the US space agency is planning for a 'golden asteroid' probing mission to launch this summer.

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