Is supernova possible in the sun

Identified forerunner of a supernova

Wolf-Rayet stars are the most massive stars known. They are rare and difficult to observe, which is why little is known about their formation and death. Researchers have now succeeded in observing a type IIb supernova and traced it back to a Wolf-Rayet star as the forerunner star for the first time. The researchers published their results in the journal "Nature".

The evolution of stars more than eight times the mass of the Sun ends in huge cosmic explosions. If these stars have used up their fuel supply, nothing counteracts the strong gravity and the core of the star is more and more compressed. If the pressure becomes too great, the core collapses and the outer layers are thrown far into space by a shock wave. Since Wolf-Rayet stars are about twenty times more massive than our sun, they too should end in a supernova. So far, astronomers thought three different types of supernova were possible in this case. In order to gain clarity, such an event would have to be observed directly.

Observation of the supernova SN2013cu

One thing in particular is crucial: speed. Because only in the first hours after the explosion is it possible for researchers to determine the chemical composition of the star - otherwise all material will be carried away. Scientists from the Weizmann Institute for Science in Israel succeeded in observing the type II supernova SN2013cu as early as May 2013: A telescope for scanning the sky alerted the researchers about an outbreak in the galaxy UGC 9379, which is about 350 million light years away from us. Just six hours after the explosion, the team was able to collect further data with the Keck telescope in Hawaii. When analyzing the observed light, Avishay Gal-Yam and his colleagues found characteristic properties from which they could unequivocally infer a Wolf-Rayet star as the forerunner of the supernova.