A WC/WO star exploding within an expanding carbon–oxygen–neon nebula

A. Gal-Yam, R. Bruch, S. Schulze, Y. Yang, D. A. Perley, I. Irani, J. Sollerman, E. C. Kool, M. T. Soumagnac, O. Yaron, N. L. Strotjohann, E. Zimmerman, C. Barbarino, S. R. Kulkarni, M. M. Kasliwal, K. De, Y. Yao, C. Fremling, L. Yan, E. O. OfekC. Fransson, A. V. Filippenko, W. Zheng, T. G. Brink, C. M. Copperwheat, R. J. Foley, J. Brown, M. Siebert, G. Leloudas, A. L. Cabrera-Lavers, D. Garcia-Alvarez, A. Marante-Barreto, S. Frederick, T. Hung, J. C. Wheeler, J. Vinkó, B. P. Thomas, M. J. Graham, D. A. Duev, A. J. Drake, R. Dekany, E. C. Bellm, B. Rusholme, D. L. Shupe, I. Andreoni, Y. Sharma, R. Riddle, J. van Roestel, N. Knezevic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The final fate of massive stars, and the nature of the compact remnants they leave behind (black holes and neutron stars), are open questions in astrophysics. Many massive stars are stripped of their outer hydrogen envelopes as they evolve. Such Wolf–Rayet stars1 emit strong and rapidly expanding winds with speeds greater than 1,000 kilometres per second. A fraction of this population is also helium-depleted, with spectra dominated by highly ionized emission lines of carbon and oxygen (types WC/WO). Evidence indicates that the most commonly observed supernova explosions that lack hydrogen and helium (types Ib/Ic) cannot result from massive WC/WO stars2,3, leading some to suggest that most such stars collapse directly into black holes without a visible supernova explosion4. Here we report observations of SN 2019hgp, beginning about a day after the explosion. Its short rise time and rapid decline place it among an emerging population of rapidly evolving transients5–8. Spectroscopy reveals a rich set of emission lines indicating that the explosion occurred within a nebula composed of carbon, oxygen and neon. Narrow absorption features show that this material is expanding at high velocities (greater than 1,500 kilometres per second), requiring a compact progenitor. Our observations are consistent with an explosion of a massive WC/WO star, and suggest that massive Wolf–Rayet stars may be the progenitors of some rapidly evolving transients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-204
Number of pages4
Issue number7892
StatePublished - 13 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This work is based on observations obtained with the Samuel Oschin 48-inch Telescope and the 60-inch Telescope at Palomar Observatory as part of the Zwicky Transient Facility project. ZTF is supported by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant AST-1440341 and a collaboration including Caltech, IPAC, the Weizmann Institute for Science, the Oskar Klein Center at Stockholm University, the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron and Humboldt University, Los Alamos National Laboratories, the TANGO Consortium of Taiwan, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Operations are conducted by COO, IPAC, and UW. This work includes observations made with the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT), owned in collaboration by the University of Turku and Aarhus University, and operated jointly by Aarhus University, the University of Turku and the University of Oslo (representing Denmark, Finland and Norway, respectively), the University of Iceland and Stockholm University, at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, Spain, of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. These data were obtained with ALFOSC, which is provided by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA) under a joint agreement with the University of Copenhagen and NOT. This work includes observations made with the GTC telescope, in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, under Director’s Discretionary Time. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. This work includes observations obtained at the international Gemini Observatory, a programme of NSF’s NOIRLab, which is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF on behalf of the Gemini Observatory partnership: the NSF (USA), National Research Council (Canada), Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (Chile), Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovacíon (Argentina), Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (Brazil), and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (Republic of Korea). We wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the Indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. This work includes observations obtained at the Liverpool Telescope, which is operated on the island of La Palma by Liverpool John Moores University in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias with financial support from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council. Research at Lick Observatory is partially supported by a generous gift from Google. This work includes observations obtained with the Hobby– Eberly Telescope, which is a joint project of the University of Texas at Austin, the Pennsylvania State University, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. These results made use of the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT) at Lowell Observatory. Lowell is a private, non-profit institution dedicated to astrophysical research and public appreciation of astronomy and operates the LDT in partnership with Boston University, the University of Maryland, the University of Toledo, Northern Arizona University and Yale University. This work benefited from the OPTICON telescope access programme (https://www. astro-opticon.org/index.html), funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 730890. We made use of IRAF, which is distributed by the NSF NOIRLab. A.G.-Y. is supported by the EU via ERC grant no. 725161, the ISF GW excellence centre, an IMOS space infrastructure grant, BSF/Transformative and GIF grants, as well as by the Benoziyo Endowment Fund for the Advancement of Science, the Deloro Institute for Advanced Research in Space and Optics, The Veronika A. Rabl Physics Discretionary Fund, Minerva, Yeda-Sela and the Schwartz/Reisman Collaborative Science Program; A.G.-Y. is the incumbent of the The Arlyn Imberman Professorial Chair. M.M.K. acknowledges generous support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the GROWTH project was funded by the NSF under grant AST-1545949. E.C.K., J.S. and S.S. acknowledge support from the G.R.E.A.T. research environment funded by Vetenskapsrå det, the Swedish Research Council, under project number 2016-06012; E.C.K. also received support from The Wenner-Gren Foundations. The Oskar Klein Center’s participation in ZTF was made available by the K.A.W. Foundation. G.L. is supported by a research grant (19054) from VILLUM FONDEN. J.C.W. and B.P.T. are supported by NSF grant AST-1813825. A.V.F.’s supernova group at UC Berkeley is supported by the TABASGo Foundation, the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, and the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science (A.V.F. is a Senior Miller Fellow).

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© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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