A massive progenitor of the luminous type IIn supernova 2010jl

Nathan Smith*, Weidong Li, Adam A. Miller, Jeffrey M. Silverman, Alexei V. Filippenko, Jean Charles Cuillandre, Michael C. Cooper, Thomas Matheson, Schuyler D. Van Dyk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The bright, nearby, recently discovered supernova (SN) 2010jl is a luminous Type IIn SN. Here, we report archival Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observations of its host galaxy UGC 5189A taken roughly 10yr prior to explosion, as well as early-time optical spectra of the SN. The HST images reveal a luminous, blue point source at the position of the SN, with an absolute magnitude of -12.0 in the F300W filter. If it is not just a chance alignment, the source at the SN position could be (1) a massive young (<6Myr) star cluster in which the SN resided, (2) a quiescent, luminous blue star with an apparent temperature around 14,000 K, (3) a star caught during a bright outburst akin to those of luminous blue variables, or (4) a combination of option (1) and option (2) or (3). Although we cannot confidently choose between these possibilities with the present data, any of them imply that the progenitor of SN 2010jl had an initial mass above 30 M. This reinforces mounting evidence that many SNe IIn result from very massive stars, that massive stars can produce visible SNe without collapsing quietly to black holes, and that massive stars can sometimes retain their H envelopes until shortly before explosion. Standard stellar evolution models fail to account for these observed properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number63
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2011


  • circumstellar matter
  • stars: evolution
  • stars: mass-loss
  • stars: winds, outflows
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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