The star, which lay about 200 million light years away from earth and was million times brighter than the Sun, has exploded as a supernova at a much earlier date than the one predicted by astronomers. The phenomenon was captured by Dr. Avishay Gal-Yam of the Weizmann Institute’s Faculty of Physics in Israel and Professor Douglas Leonard of San Diego State University. According to the scientists, any star’s “death” is predetermined by factors such as its size and “power plant,” which keeps it shining during its lifetime. “Stars, among them our sun, are fueled by hydrogen nuclei fusing together into helium in the intense heat and pressure of their inner cores. A helium nucleus is a bit lighter than the sum of the masses of the four hydrogen nuclei that went into making it and, from Einstein’s theory of relativity (E=MC^2), we know that the missing mass is released as energy” – explain Gal-Yam and Leonard.
The explosion of such an ‘immature’ star has led scientists to put existing theories of stellar evolution to doubt – “This might mean that we are fundamentally wrong about the evolution of massive stars, and that theories need revising,” said Gal-Yam. He also noted that the unusual brightness of the progenitor indicated that the star belonged to a family of “Luminous Blue Variables” (LBVs) – these are characterized by shedding much of their mass through a violent stellar wind, what eventually triggers their explosion as supernovae. “The progenitor identification shows that, at least in some cases, massive stars explode before losing most of their hydrogen envelope, suggesting that the evolution of the core and the evolution of the envelope are less coupled than previously thought, a finding which may require a revision of stellar evolution theory,” said Leonard.
TFOT has previously covered a number of innovative findings in the field of astronomy including a novel theory on galaxy formation, proposed by astrophysicists of the Hebrew University and a research that succeeded to resolve issues surrounding dark matter structures in the Milky Way, shedding some light on the enigmatic dark matter.