A hybrid envelope-stripping mechanism for massive stars from supernova nebular spectroscopy


The final steps of the evolution of massive stars leading to a supernova explosion, in particular the mass-loss mechanism, is an important open problem in astrophysics. Stripped-envelope supernovae (SESNe) are explosions of massive stars where a large amount of the outer envelope has been stripped away before the explosion: types IIb, Ib and Ic in order of increasing degree of envelope stripping1,2,3. In this work, an analysis of late-time nebular spectra of SESNe is presented. The results show that the progenitors of SNe IIb and Ib are indistinguishable except for the residual amount of the H-rich envelope. The progenitors of SNe Ic are distinctly different in the nature of the carbon–oxygen (C+O) core, which is interpreted to be more massive than in SNe IIb and Ib. These findings strongly suggest that different mechanisms are responsible for the removal of the outer H-rich envelope and the deeper He-rich layer.

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Fig. 1: The average spectra of different SESN subtypes obtained around 200 days after maximum light.
Fig. 2: The correlation between early light curve width and the [O i]/[Ca ii] ratio.
Fig. 3: The distribution of LN/LO ([N ii]/[O i]) and LO/LCa ([O i]/[Ca ii]) among different SN subtypes.

Data availability

Most of the light curves and spectra are available from WiseRep, The Open Supernova Catalogue and Supernova Database of Berkeley. The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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Q.F. acknowledges support by MEXT scholarship awarded by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. K.M. acknowledges support by JSPS KAKENHI Grant (18H04585, 18H05223, 17H02864). A.G.-Y. is supported by the EU via ERC grant number 725161, the ISF, the BSF Transformative program and by a Kimmel award. We thank A. Morales-Garoffolo for kindly providing the nebular spectra of SN 2013df. We thank WiseRep, the Open Supernova Catalog and the Berkeley Supernova Database for access to supernova data.

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Q.F. led the nebular spectral analysis and the manuscript preparatoin. K.M. contributed to the initiation of the project together with Q.F. K.M. and A.G.-Y. organized the efforts for interpretation of the results and assisted in manuscript preparation. H.K. contributed to the spectral analysis and interpretations. F.S. assisted in the spectral analysis. All authors contributed to discussion.

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Correspondence to Qiliang Fang or Keiichi Maeda.

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Fang, Q., Maeda, K., Kuncarayakti, H. et al. A hybrid envelope-stripping mechanism for massive stars from supernova nebular spectroscopy. Nat Astron 3, 434–439 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0710-6

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