It is difficult to establish the properties of massive stars that explode as supernovae1,2. The electromagnetic emission during the first minutes to hours after the emergence of the shock from the stellar surface conveys important information about the final evolution and structure of the exploding star3,4,5,6. However, the unpredictable nature of supernova events hinders the detection of this brief initial phase7,8,9. Here we report the serendipitous discovery of a newly born, normal type IIb supernova (SN 2016gkg)10, which reveals a rapid brightening at optical wavelengths of about 40 magnitudes per day. The very frequent sampling of the observations allowed us to study in detail the outermost structure of the progenitor of the supernova and the physics of the emergence of the shock. We develop hydrodynamical models of the explosion that naturally account for the complete evolution of the supernova over distinct phases regulated by different physical processes. This result suggests that it is appropriate to decouple the treatment of the shock propagation from the unknown mechanism that triggers the explosion.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Subscribe to Nature+
Get immediate online access to Nature and 55 other Nature journal
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Langer, N. Presupernova evolution of massive single and binary stars. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 50, 107–164 (2012)
Smartt, S. J. Observational constraints on the progenitors of core-collapse supernovae: the case for missing high-mass stars. Publ. Astron. Soc. Aust. 32, e016 (2015)
Falk, S. W. & Arnett, W. D. Radiation dynamics, envelope ejection, and supernova light curves. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 33, 515–562 (1977)
Ensman, L. & Burrows, A. Shock breakout in SN 1987A. Astrophys. J. 393, 742–755 (1992)
Matzner, C. D. & McKee, C. F. The expulsion of stellar envelopes in core-collapse supernovae. Astrophys. J. 510, 379–403 (1999)
Tominaga, N. et al. Shock breakout in type II plateau supernovae: prospects for high-redshift supernova surveys. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 193, 20 (2011)
Morokuma, T. et al. Kiso Supernova Survey (KISS): survey strategy. Publ. Astron. Soc. Jpn 66, 114 (2014)
Förster, F. et al. The High Cadence Transient Survey (HITS). I. Survey design and supernova shock breakout constraints. Astrophys. J. 832, 155 (2016)
Tanaka, M. et al. Rapidly rising transients from the Subaru Hyper Suprime-Cam Transient Survey. Astrophys. J. 819, 5 (2016)
Otero, S. & Buso, V. Discovery Certificate for Object 2016gkg. TNS Astronomical Transient Report No. 5381, https://wis-tns.weizmann.ac.il/object/2016gkg/discovery-cert (Transient Name Server, 2016)
Campana, S. et al. The association of GRB 060218 with a supernova and the evolution of the shock wave. Nature 442, 1008–1010 (2006)
Modjaz, M. et al. From shock breakout to peak and beyond: extensive panchromatic observations of the type Ib supernova 2008D associated with Swift X-ray transient 080109. Astrophys. J. 702, 226–248 (2009)
Gal-Yam, A. et al. A Wolf-Rayet-like progenitor of SN 2013cu from spectral observations of a stellar wind. Nature 509, 471–474 (2014)
Garnavich, P. M. et al. Shock breakout and early light curves of type II-P supernovae observed with Kepler. Astrophys. J. 820, 23 (2016)
Yaron, O. et al. Confined dense circumstellar material surrounding a regular type II supernova. Nat. Phys. 13, 510–517 (2017)
Tartaglia, L. et al. The progenitor and early evolution of the type IIb SN 2016gkg. Astrophys. J. 836, L12 (2017)
Arcavi, I. et al. Constraints on the progenitor of SN 2016gkg from its shock-cooling light curve. Astrophys. J. 837, L2 (2017)
Kilpatrick, C. D. et al. On the progenitor of the type IIb supernova 2016gkg. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 465, 4650–4657 (2017)
Colgate, S. A. & McKee, C. Early supernova luminosity. Astrophys. J. 157, 623 (1969)
Falk, S. W. Shock steepening and prompt thermal emission in supernovae. Astrophys. J. 225, L133–L136 (1978)
Klein, R. I. & Chevalier, R. A. X-ray bursts from type II supernovae. Astrophys. J. 223, L109–L112 (1978)
Tolstov, A. et al. Multicolor light curve simulations of population III core-collapse supernovae: from shock breakout to 56Co decay. Astrophys. J. 821, 124 (2016)
Bersten, M. C. et al. The type IIb supernova 2011dh from a supergiant progenitor. Astrophys. J. 757, 31 (2012)
Tolstov, A. G., Blinnikov, S. I. & Nadyozhin, D. K. Coupling of matter and radiation at supernova shock breakout. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 429, 3181–3199 (2013)
Sapir, N., Katz, B. & Waxman, E. Non-relativistic radiation mediated shock breakouts. III. Spectral properties of supernova shock breakout. Astrophys. J. 774, 79 (2013)
Bellm, E. The Zwicky transient facility. In The Third Hot-wiring the Transient Universe Workshop (eds Wozniak, P. R. et al. 27–33 (2014)
Drout, M. R. et al. Rapidly evolving and luminous transients from Pan-STARRS1. Astrophys. J. 794, 23 (2014)
Šimon, V., Pizzichini, G. & Hudec, R. Evolution of the color indices in SN 2006aj associated with GRB 060218. Astron. Astrophys. 523, A56 (2010)
Harris, W. E. A comment on image detection and the definition of limiting magnitude. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 102, 949–953 (1990)
Filippenko, A. V ., Li, W. D ., Treffers, R. R. & Modjaz, M. The Lick Observatory supernova search with the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope. ASP Conf. Ser. 246, 121–130 (2001)
Ganeshalingam, M. et al. Results of the Lick Observatory supernova search follow-up photometry program: BVRI light curves of 165 type Ia supernovae. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 190, 418–448 (2010)
Shivvers, I. et al. The nearby type Ibn supernova 2015G: signatures of asymmetry and progenitor constraints. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 471, 4381–4397 (2017)
Oke, J. B. et al. The Keck Low-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 107, 375–385 (1995)
Faber, S. M. et al. The DEIMOS spectrograph for the Keck II telescope: integration and testing. Proc. SPIE 4841, 1657–1669 (2003)
Filippenko, A. V. The importance of atmospheric differential refraction in spectrophotometry. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 94, 715–721 (1982)
Barbon, R. et al. SN 1993J in M 81: one year of observations at Asiago. Astron. Astrophys. Suppl. Ser. 110, 513–519 (1995)
Matheson, T. et al. Optical spectroscopy of supernova 1993J during its first 2500 days. Astron. J. 120, 1487–1498 (2000)
Ergon, M. et al. Optical and near-infrared observations of SN 2011dh – the first 100 days. Astron. Astrophys. 562, A17 (2014)
Yaron, O. & Gal-Yam, A. WISeREP—an interactive supernova data repository. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 124, 668–681 (2012)
Branch, D. et al. Direct analysis of spectra of type Ib supernovae. Astrophys. J. 566, 1005–1017 (2002)
Bersten, M. C., Benvenuto, O. & Hamuy, M. Hydrodynamical models of type II plateau supernovae. Astrophys. J. 729, 61 (2011)
Nomoto, K. & Hashimoto, M. Presupernova evolution of massive stars. Phys. Rep. 163, 13–36 (1988)
Drout, M. R. et al. The first systematic study of type Ibc Supernova multi-band light curves. Astrophys. J. 741, 97 (2011)
Lyman, J. D. et al. Bolometric light curves and explosion parameters of 38 stripped-envelope core-collapse supernovae. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 457, 328–350 (2016)
Taddia, F . et al. The Carnegie Supernova Project I: analysis of stripped-envelope supernova light curves. Astron. Astrophys. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201730844 (2017)
Van Dyk, S. D. et al. The progenitor of supernova 2011dh has vanished. Astrophys. J. 772, L32 (2013)
Piro, A. L. et al. Numerically modeling the first peak of the type IIb SN 2016gkg. Astrophys. J. 846, 94 (2017)
Khazov, D. et al. Flash spectroscopy: emission lines from the ionized circumstellar material around <10-day-old type II supernovae. Astrophys. J. 818, 3 (2016)
Moriya, T. J., Yoon, S.-C., Gräfener, G. & Blinnikov, S. I. Immediate dense circumstellar environment of supernova progenitors caused by wind acceleration: its effect on supernova light curves. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 469, L108–L112 (2017)
Soderberg, A. M. et al. An extremely luminous X-ray outburst at the birth of a supernova. Nature 453, 469–474 (2008)
Mazzali, P. A. et al. The metamorphosis of supernova SN 2008D/XRF 080109: a link between supernovae and GRBs/hypernovae. Science 321, 1185–1188 (2008)
Ghisellini, G., Ghirlanda, G. & Tavecchio, F. Did we observe the supernova shock breakout in GRB 060218? Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 382, L77–L81 (2007)
Li, L.-X. The X-ray transient 080109 in NGC 2770: an X-ray flash associated with a normal core-collapse supernova. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 388, 603–610 (2008)
Brown, P. J ., Breeveld, A. A ., Holland, S ., Kuin, P. & Pritchard, T. SOUSA: the Swift Optical/Ultraviolet Supernova Archive. Astrophys. Space Sci. 354, 89–96 (2014)
Rubin, A. & Gal-Yam, A. Exploring the efficacy and limitations of shock-cooling models: new results for type II supernovae observed by the Kepler mission. Astrophys. J. 848, 8 (2017)
Fruchter, A. S., Hack, W., Dencheva, N., Droettboom, M. & Greenfield, P. BetaDrizzle: a redesign of the MultiDrizzle package. In 2010 Space Telescope Science Institute Calibration Workshop 382–387 (2010)
Gonzaga, S., Hack, W., Fruchter, A. & Mack, J. (eds) The DrizzlePac Handbook (STScI, 2012)
Dolphin, A. E. WFPC2 stellar photometry with HSTPHOT. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 112, 1383–1396 (2000)
Kurucz, R. ATLAS9 Stellar Atmosphere Programs and 2 km/s Grid. Kurucz CD-ROM No. 13 (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 1993)
Benvenuto, O. G. & De Vito, M. A. A code for stellar binary evolution and its application to the formation of helium white dwarfs. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 342, 50–60 (2003)
Benvenuto, O. G., Bersten, M. C. & Nomoto, K. A binary progenitor for the type IIb supernova 2011dh in M51. Astrophys. J. 762, 74 (2013)
Paczýnski, B. Evolutionary processes in close binary systems. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 9, 183 (1971)
Phillips, M. M. et al. On the source of the dust extinction in type Ia supernovae and the discovery of anomalously strong Na I absorption. Astrophys. J. 779, 38 (2013)
Koopmann, R. A. & Kenney, J. D. P. An atlas of H and R images and radial profiles of bright isolated spiral galaxies. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 162, 97–112 (2006)
Schlafly, E. F. & Finkbeiner, D. P. Measuring reddening with Sloan Digital Sky Survey stellar spectra and recalibrating SFD. Astrophys. J. 737, 103 (2011)
Kewley, L. J. & Dopita, M. A. Using strong lines to estimate abundances in extragalactic H II regions and starburst galaxies. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 142, 35–52 (2002)
Pilyugin, L. S. & Grebel, E. K. New calibrations for abundance determinations in H II regions. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 457, 3678–3692 (2016)
Curti, M. et al. New fully empirical calibrations of strong-line metallicity indicators in starforming galaxies. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 465, 1384–1400 (2017)
Asplund, M., Grevesse, N., Sauval, A. J. & Scott, P. The chemical composition of the Sun. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 47, 481–522 (2009)
Richmond, M. W. et al. UBVRI photometry of SN 1993J in M81: the first 120 days. Astron. J. 107, 1022–1040 (1994)
Arcavi, I. et al. SN 2011dh: discovery of a type IIb supernova from a compact progenitor in the nearby galaxy M51. Astrophys. J. 742, L18 (2011)
We are grateful to P. Brown for providing information about the photometry of the early Swift/UVOT data of SN 2006aj. M.C.B. acknowledges support from the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT) through grant PICT-2015-3083 ‘Progenitores de Supernovas de Colapso Gravitatorio’ and from the Munich Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics (MIAPP) of the DFG cluster of excellence ‘Origin and Structure of the Universe’. M.C.B., G.F. and O.G.B. acknowledge support from grant PIP-2015-2017-11220150100746CO of CONICET ‘Estrellas Binarias y Supernovas’. G.F. further acknowledges support from ANPCyT grant PICT-2015-2734 ‘Nacimiento y Muerte de Estrellas Masivas: Su relación con el Medio Interestelar’. K.M. acknowledges support from JSPS KAKENHI grant 17H02864. Partial support for this work was provided by NASA through programmes GO-14115 and AR-14295 from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by AURA, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. M.O. acknowledges support from grant PI UNRN40B531. A.V.F. is also grateful for financial assistance from the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, the TABASGO Foundation and the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science (University of California Berkeley). We thank the University of California Berkeley undergraduate students S. Channa, G. Halevy, A. Halle, M. de Kouchkovsky, J. Molloy, T. Ross, S. Stegman and S. Yunus for their effort in collecting Lick/Nickel data, and T.d.J. for help with some of the Keck observations. The Lick and Keck Observatory staff provided excellent assistance. A major upgrade of the Kast spectrograph on the Shane 3-m telescope at Lick Observatory was made possible through gifts from William and Marina Kast as well as the Heising-Simons Foundation. Research at Lick Observatory is partially supported by a gift from Google. KAIT and its on-going operation were made possible by donations from Sun Microsystems, Inc., the Hewlett-Packard Company, AutoScope Corporation, Lick Observatory, the NSF, the University of California, the Sylvia and Jim Katzman Foundation and the TABASGO Foundation. Some of the data presented here were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA; the observatory was made possible by financial support from the W. M. Keck Foundation. O.G.B. is a member of the Carrera del Investigador Científico de la Comisión de Investigaciones Científicas de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (CIC), Argentina.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Extended data figures and tables
The image is a combination of the final 21-image series obtained at discovery. We show only the relevant region, containing the supernova (red circle), its host and the comparison stars for photometry (indicated with numbers on the upper left of each star; see Extended Data Table 1). Image obtained by V.B.
The supernova location is indicated in all panels with a white circle. North is up and east is to the left. The bar in a indicates a scale of 20″. a, A combination of 40 exposures obtained before the detection of the supernova. b–l, Sequence of images obtained during the initial rise as combinations of five or six individual exposures. Labels on the lower left of each panel indicate the mean ut time of the images. Photometry from the latter set of images is shown with blue diamonds in Fig. 1. Images obtained by V.B.
Extended Data Figure 3 Follow-up observations of SN 2016gkg compared with those of other type IIb supernovae.
a, BVRI light curves for SN 2016gkg (symbols) obtained with KAIT and the Nickel telescope. V-band data from V.B. and J.L.S. converted from the clear band and data from Atlas, ASAS, Swift and LCOGT17 are also included. Open symbols are unfiltered data from KAIT, transformed to the R band. Data of type IIb supernovae SN 1993J (dashed lines)70 and SN 2011dh (solid lines)34,38,71 are included for comparison. MJD, modified Julian date. b, Optical spectra of SN 2016gkg (black) compared with data of the type IIb supernovae SN 1993J (blue)36,37 and SN 2011dh (red)38 at similar epochs.
a, b, Model (lines) bolometric light curve (a) and photospheric velocity evolution (b) compared with observations (points) during the 56Ni-dominated phase. No attempt was made to reproduce the initial light-curve decline (before day 4). c, d, Absolute V-band light-curve models (lines) compared with observations (points) during the SBO and post-shock cooling phases, for different progenitor radii (R⊙; c) and explosion energies (foe; d). Error bars are 1σ and are shown only when they are larger than the data points.
Absolute V-band magnitude of our preferred model (solid line), a similar model including some CSM (dashed line) and a model with approximately four times larger explosion energy (dotted line), compared with the early-time observations (points). The CSM is not necessarily in hydrostatic and thermal equilibrium. The presence of the CSM material reduces the slope during the SBO phase, making it even more compatible with the observations, without affecting the evolution at times later than about 1 day. Even assuming an extreme explosion energy, the resulting cooling-peak slope is substantially smaller than that during the SBO. Error bars are 1σ and are shown only when they are larger than the data points.
a, The HST WFC3/UVIS F555W image mosaic from 2016 October 10. b, A portion of the HST WFPC2 F606W image mosaic from 2001 August 21. The candidate position of the progenitor is indicated by tick marks. c, Stellar-atmosphere SED fit (line) to the candidate HST photometry (red squares). An H ii region of which we obtained a Keck DEIMOS spectrum is seen about 8.6″ north of the progenitor. Error bars are 1σ. d, Evolutionary tracks on the HRD of our progenitor binary model (primary star in black; secondary star in cyan, magenta and green for different accretion efficiencies). Large circles indicate the end points of both stars, with final masses labelled, the red square shows the progenitor candidate location and the blue line is the zero-age main sequence with masses indicated. e, Spectrum of a bright H ii region seen in b, 8.6″ north of SN 2016gkg.
About this article
Cite this article
Bersten, M., Folatelli, G., García, F. et al. A surge of light at the birth of a supernova. Nature 554, 497–499 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature25151
This article is cited by
Nature Astronomy (2019)
Nature Astronomy (2018)