On the progenitor of the type II-plateau SN 2008cn in NGC 4603

Nancy Elias-Rosa, Schuyler D. Van Dyk, Weidong Li, Nidia Morrell, Sergio Gonzalez, Mario Hamuy, Alexei V. Filippenko, Jean Charles Cuillandre, Ryan J. Foley, Nathan Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


A trend is emerging regarding the progenitor stars that give rise to the most common core-collapse supernovae (SNe), those of Type II-Plateau (II-P): they generally appear to be red supergiants with a limited range of initial masses, ∼8-16 M·. Here, we consider another example, SN 2008cn, in the nearly face-on spiral galaxy NGC4603. Even with limited photometric data, it appears that SN 2008cn is not a normal SN II-P, but is of the high-luminosity subclass. Through comparison of pre- and post-explosion images obtained with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope, we have isolated a supergiant star prior to explosion at nearly the same position as the SN. We provide evidence that this supergiant may well be the progenitor of the SN, although this identification is not entirely unambiguous. This is exacerbated by the distance to the host galaxy, 33.3 Mpc, making SN 2008cn the most distant SN II-P yet for which an attempt has been made to identify a progenitor star in pre-SN images. The progenitor candidate has a more yellow color ([V - I]0 = 0.98 mag and Teff = 5200 300 K) than generally would be expected and, if a single star, would require that it exploded during a "blue loop" evolutionary phase, which is theoretically not expected to occur. Nonetheless, we estimate an initial mass of Mini = 15 ±2 · for this star, which is within the expected mass range for SN II-P progenitors. The yellower color could also arise from the blend of two or more stars, such as a red supergiant and a brighter, blue supergiant. Such a red supergiant hidden in this blend could instead be the progenitor and would also have an initial mass within the expected progenitor mass range. Furthermore, the yellow supergiant could be in a massive, interacting binary system, analogous to the possible yellow supergiant progenitor of the high-luminosity SN II-P 2004et. Finally, if the yellow supergiant is not the progenitor, or is not a stellar blend or binary containing the progenitor, then we constrain any undetected progenitor star to be a red supergiant with Mini ≲ 11 M·, considering a physically more realistic scenario of explosion at the model endpoint luminosity for a rotating star.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1174-1183
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: individual (NGC 4603)
  • Stars: evolution
  • Supernovae: general
  • Supernovae: individual (SN 2008cn)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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