When massive stars accumulate more iron than their centres can hold, they explode in what is known as a core-collapse supernova. Such supernovae enrich the surrounding environment with elements, seeding the formation of other stars. Astronomers have linked the number of core-collapse supernovae in a galaxy to the rate of star formation.

Maria-Teresa Botticella at the Padua Astronomical Observatory in Italy and her colleagues compared star-formation estimates based on core-collapse explosions to those based on more conventional measurements of galactic brightness. They found good agreement between their method and one of the two others studied.

The authors also used their measurements to estimate the mass range over which iron-rich stars explode. The study should improve our understanding of these supernovae and may lead to a new way of studying star formation in distant galaxies.

Astron. Astrophys. 537, A132 (2012)