Astronomers may have discovered a way to tell if Betelgeuse is about to explode

In a recent study presented to high-energy astrophysical phenomenaa team of researchers from Japan discussed strategies for observing and possibly predicting precursor signatures of a galactic and local type II supernova explosion.

Why does it matter? This study has the potential to help us better understand how and when supernovae might occur throughout the universe, supernovae being the plural form of supernovae. But how important is it to detect supernovae before they happen?

“From my perspective, it is important in two ways,” said Daichi Tsuna, an astrophysicist at the University of Tokyo Early Universe Research Center and lead author of the study.

“First, although we know that supernovae are explosions that signal the death of massive stars, what happens near the end of their lives remains a mystery. In fact, supernova precursors, suggested by recent observational work, are not predicted from the standard theory of stellar evolution,” he says.

“Our paper claims that we can test this precursor in depth through future observations, which may help deepen our understanding of stellar evolution and refine existing theory. Second, finding a supernova precursor would allow very early warning of a supernova in the near future and help extend the time frame available for coordinating observations of multiple messengers (light, neutrinos, and gravitational waves).

How they did it? For the study, the researchers used the open source CHIPS (Complete History of Interaction-Driven Supernovae) to create a theoretical model for such a discharge from the massive eruption of a red supergiant star.

This is intriguing since the star Betelgese, whose brightness dimmed in 2019, sparking discussions about its possible supernova transformation, is also a red supergiant star. As it turns out, Bethelgeese is nearing the end of its life, but a 2021 study said it’s not set to explode for another 100,000 years. But what implications could this research have for Betelgese?

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“Betelgeuse is a red supergiant, which is exactly the type of star we have studied in this article,” explains Tsuna.

“So if Betelgeuse were to explode very soon, it could show this kind of precursor emission just before the supernova. Since Betelgeuse is so close to us, neutrino detectors can find neutrinos emitted days before the supernova. We can do multi-message astronomy even before the supernova explosion!

This supernova remnant, named SNR 0519-69.0 (SNR 0519 for short), is the remains of an exploding white dwarf star.X-Ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/BJ Williams et al.; Optics: NASA/ESA/STScI

Delving into the details – The study’s findings indicate that the eruption’s light curves are fueled by a brief shock wave pulse lasting only a few days, followed by a much longer cooling discharge lasting hundreds of days. For lower energy flares, this period is followed by a faint peak period fueled by what is known as the conjoined envelope, receding. The study concludes by saying that such massive eruption events “may serve as early warning of the near near future.” [supernova]which will be important for multi-messenger studies of core collapse [supernovae].”

“One thing I would highlight is that we have a bright future in detecting these sorts of fairly faint precursors,” Tsuna said.

“For example, in a few years, the Rubin Observatory would conduct wide-field observations with much deeper sensitivity than current surveys. It would be sensitive enough to detect these types of emissions and may be evidence of the remarkable final stages of a massive star’s life.”

This article was originally published on universe today by Laurence Tognetti. Read the original article here.

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