The Triple-Ring Nebula Around SN 1987A: Fingerprint of a Binary Merger

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Abstract

Supernova 1987A, the first naked-eye supernova observed since Kepler's supernova in 1604, defies a number of theoretical expectations. Its anomalies have long been attributed to a merger between two massive stars that occurred some 20,000 years before the explosion, but so far there has been no conclusive proof that this merger took place. Here, we present three-dimensional hydrodynamical simulations of the mass ejection associated with such a merger and the subsequent evolution of the ejecta, and we show that this accurately reproduces the properties of the triple-ring nebula surrounding the supernova.

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