Starbirth: New View of the Flame Nebula

Flame Nebula
This radio view shows the Flame Nebula (left) and reflection nebula NGC 2023 (right); to the top right of NGC 2023, the Horsehead Nebula seems to emerge from the “flames.” The three nebulae are part of a group of star-forming structures located between 1,300 and 1,600 light-years away. The different colors indicate the gas's velocity: While the structures are all moving away from us, the red clouds in the background are receding faster than the yellow ones in the foreground. (The background image is based on images from the Digitized Sky Survey 2.)
ESO / Th. Stanke & ESO / Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin

The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), located on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile’s Atacama Desert, captured the Flame Nebula in Orion at radio wavelengths.

The nebula is one of half a dozen star-forming regions imaged as part of the APEX Large CO Heterodyne Orion Legacy Survey (ALCOHOLS). This survey maps carbon monoxide gas as a tracer of star-forming gas in the galaxy. While clouds of molecular hydrogen, which may ultimately collapse into stars, are difficult to see on their own, the small amounts of mixed-in carbon monoxide shine at radio wavelengths, highlighting denser filaments and clumps.

Thomas Stanke (ESO) and colleagues will publish these observations in Astronomy & Astrophysics (preprint available here).

Stardeath: Supernova Caught in the Act

Astronomers have captured the final months of a red supergiant star's life.

An artist’s rendition shows a red supergiant star transitioning into a core-collapse supernova. An eruption of radiation and gas precedes the ultimate collapse and ensuring explosion.
W. M. Keck Observatory / Adam Makarenko

Using the Pan-STARRS telescope on Haleakalā and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, both in Hawai'i, astronomers caught not only the star going supernova, in an event dubbed SN 2020tlf, but the death throes that portended the event.

Roughly four months pre-supernova, in the summer of 2020, Wynn Jacobson-Galán (University of California, Berkeley) and colleagues noticed an unexpectedly bright red supergiant. The star was likely casting off its outer layers in preparation for its final act. That fall, the star went supernova, and the astronomers were watching. Measuring the explosion's spectrum, they confirmed the tell-tale signature of shock waves blasting into dense material around the exploded star.

The team makes a full report in the Astrophysical Journal. See also the Keck Observatory's press release.


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