Morgan Keanan spectral classification stars

Is NASA incorrect in regards to the “supernova” destiny of this star?

How do stars die? The mantra of astronomers is “Mass determines destiny”.

The (trendy) Morgan–Keenan spectral classification system, with the temperature vary of every star class listed above, in kelvin. The overwhelming majority (80%) of stars right now are class M stars, with just one in 800 stars being a category O or B star huge sufficient for a core-collapse supernova. Our Solar is a G-class star, unremarkable however brighter than all however ~5% stars. Whereas mass usually determines a star’s destiny, the strains of demarcation between completely different fates are very blurred.

Credit score: LucasVB/Wikimedia Commons; Notes: E. Siegel

If you happen to had been born with greater than 8 photo voltaic plenty, you’re destined for a core-collapse supernova.

very massive starry supernova

The anatomy of a really huge star all through its lifetime, culminating in a Kind II supernova when the core runs out of nuclear gas. The ultimate stage of fusion is normally the combustion of silicon, producing iron and iron-like components within the core for less than a short second earlier than a supernova happens. If the core of this star is huge sufficient, it is going to produce a black gap when the core collapses. Through the supernova occasion, about 99% of the power is carried away by neutrinos. It’s not really easy to know which stars will die in a core-collapse supernova and which is not going to.

Credit score: Nicolle Rager Fuller/NSF

Under this threshold, you’ll solely type a white dwarf when you could have exhausted your core gas.

planetary nebula

When our Solar runs out of gas, it is going to turn out to be a crimson big, adopted by a planetary nebula with a white dwarf within the middle. The Cat’s Eye Nebula is a visually spectacular instance of this potential destiny, with its complicated, layered and asymmetrical form suggesting a binary companion. Within the middle, a younger white dwarf heats up because it contracts, reaching temperatures tens of 1000’s of Kelvin hotter than the floor of the crimson big that spawned it. The outer envelopes of gasoline are largely hydrogen, which is returned to the interstellar medium on the finish of a Solar-like star’s life.

Credit score: Nordic Optical Telescope and Romano Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain)

However that oversimplifies a key side of stellar evolution: Huge stars expel matter as they age.

Wolf-Rayet Starry Cosmic Reef

This a part of the Cosmic Reef composition highlights the blue reflection nebula created by winds blowing from a scorching, huge big blue star which is then illuminated in mirrored gentle by the unique star that created it. The star Wolf-Rayet that feeds it might be destined, within the quick time period, for a stellar cataclysm similar to a core-collapse supernova, however we will solely see the presence of the chilly gasoline expelled from its outer layers.

Credit score: NASA, ESA and STScI

Notably within the later big phases of life, robust winds blow throughout their huge outer layers.

NGC 6888 expelled gas

Imaged in the identical colours that Hubble Narrowband Images would reveal, this picture reveals NGC 6888: the Crescent Nebula. Also referred to as Caldwell 27 and Sharpless 105, it’s an emission nebula within the constellation Cygnus, fashioned by a quick stellar wind from a single Wolf-Rayet star. The destiny of this star: supernova, white dwarf, or black gap with direct collapse, just isn’t but decided.

Credit score: JP Metsävainio (Astro Anarchy)

NASA lately launched the star Wolf-Rayet WR 124, presenting it as a “future supernova” within the Milky Means.

wolf rayet wr 31a

This Wolf-Rayet star is called WR 31a, positioned about 30,000 light-years away within the constellation Carina. The outer nebula is being blown out of hydrogen and helium, whereas the central star is burning at over 100,000 Ok. Within the comparatively close to future, many suspect that this star will explode right into a supernova very similar to WR 124, enriching the encircling interstellar medium with new heavy components. . These stars are superb mud producers, however their final destiny is commonly doubtful.

Credit score: ESA/Hubble and NASA; Acknowledgements: Judy Schmidt

Though the central star is about 30 photo voltaic plenty, it has already expelled no less than 10 photo voltaic plenty of fabric.

Ejecta WR 102

The star Wolf-Rayet WR 102 is the most well liked star recognized, at 210,000 Ok. On this infrared composite from WISE and Spitzer, it’s barely seen, as nearly all of its power is in a light-weight at shorter wavelength. The blown and ionized hydrogen, nevertheless, comes off dramatically and divulges a collection of shells to its construction.

Credit score: Judy Schmidt; knowledge from WISE, Spitzer/MIPS1 and IRAC4

With no stellar hydrogen left, it has already begun fusing heavier components into its core.

The extraordinarily excessive excitation nebula proven right here is powered by a particularly uncommon binary star system: a Wolf-Rayet star orbiting an O star. Stellar winds from the central Wolf-Rayet member are between 10,000,000 and 1,000,000,000 occasions extra highly effective than our photo voltaic wind and illuminated at a temperature of 120,000 levels. (The off-center inexperienced supernova remnant is unrelated.) Programs like this are estimated to signify at most 0.00003% of the celebs within the Universe, however may result in supernovae if the circumstances are proper.

Credit score: ESO

However, like many Wolf-Rayet stars, it won’t in the end be destined for a supernova.

Hubble WR124

The star Wolf-Rayet WR 124 and the encircling nebula M1-67, as imaged by Hubble, each owe their origin to the identical initially huge star that blew out its hydrogen-rich outer layers. The central star is now a lot hotter than earlier than, as Wolf-Rayet stars usually have temperatures between 100,000 and 200,000 Ok, with some stars peaking even larger. However it’s not recognized whether or not this star will ultimately die in a supernova or not.

Credit score: ESA/Hubble and NASA; Acknowledgments: Judy Schmidt (

Many Wolf-Rayet stars lose an excessive amount of mass over time, leaving a core that shrinks right into a white dwarf.

planetary nebula NGC 5315 Wolf-Rayet

The planetary nebula NGC 5315, fashioned from a dying star blowing off its outer layers, has the temperature and ionization profile of a Wolf-Rayet star at its core. It’s not but recognized if this planetary nebula originated from a Wolf-Rayet star that misplaced sufficient mass, or if it originated from a traditional star that reached a Wolf-Rayet part by contracting right into a white dwarf. .

Credit score: NASA, ESA and Hubble Heritage Crew (STScI/AURA)

Many planetary nebulae have central stars of the Wolf-Rayet kind.

planetary nebula NGC 2867

This planetary nebula, NGC 2867, has at its coronary heart a stellar remnant with Wolf-Rayet properties. Though this might not have originated from a Wolf-Rayet ancestor, it’s doable that some white dwarf/planetary nebula mixtures do certainly.

Credit score: NASA/Hubble and Judy Schmidt/flickr

Different Wolf-Rayet stars will certainly collapse, however instantly: right into a black gap with out an accompanying supernova.

directly observed direct collapse

Seen/Close to IR photographs from Hubble present an enormous star, about 25 occasions the mass of the Solar, that vanished from existence, with no supernova or different clarification. Direct collapse is the one affordable doable clarification and is a recognized manner, along with supernovae or neutron star mergers, to type a black gap for the primary time.

Credit score: NASA/ESA/C. Kochanek (OSU)

WR 124 has not completed dropping mass or evolving.

WR 124 mid-infrared Wolf-Rayet JWST

This mid-infrared view of the star WR 124 and its surrounding materials reveals the considerable manufacturing of gasoline and dirt from the expelled materials. Though the central star nonetheless has 30 photo voltaic plenty of fabric, the encircling hydrogen-rich nebula is already over 10 photo voltaic plenty, and extra materials continues to be being squeezed out of the central Wolf-Rayet star.

Credit score: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Manufacturing Crew

With direct collapse and excessive mass loss nonetheless doable, WR 124 might by no means turn out to be a supernova.

Spectrum SN 2019hgp

A supernova noticed in 2019, SN 2019hgp, was an uncommon kind of supernova: the primary of its form ever seen. It’s the solely supernova ever linked to having originated from a Wolf-Rayet ancestor, regardless of about 500 recognized Wolf-Rayet stars in our Milky Means alone. The share of Wolf-Rayet stars that go supernova or not has not but been established, elevating doubts in regards to the eventual destiny of WR 124.

Credit score: SDSS (primary), A. Gal-Yam et al., Nature, 2022 (field)

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