Report

The Cassiopeia A Supernova Was of Type IIb

Science  30 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5880, pp. 1195-1197
DOI: 10.1126/science.1155788

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Abstract

Cassiopeia A is the youngest supernova remnant known in the Milky Way and a unique laboratory for supernova physics. We present an optical spectrum of the Cassiopeia A supernova near maximum brightness, obtained from observations of a scattered light echo more than three centuries after the direct light of the explosion swept past Earth. The spectrum shows that Cassiopeia A was a type IIb supernova and originated from the collapse of the helium core of a red supergiant that had lost most of its hydrogen envelope before exploding. Our finding concludes a long-standing debate on the Cassiopeia A progenitor and provides new insight into supernova physics by linking the properties of the explosion to the wealth of knowledge about its remnant.

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