Massive Stellar Mergers as Precursors of Hydrogen-rich Pulsational Pair Instability Supernovae

Alejandro Vigna Gomez, Stephen Justham, Ilya Mandel, Selma E. De Mink, Philipp Podsiadlowski

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Interactions between massive stars in binaries are thought to be responsible for much of the observed diversity of supernovae. As surveys probe rarer populations of events, we should expect to see supernovae arising from increasingly uncommon progenitor channels. Here we examine a scenario in which massive stars merge after they have both formed a hydrogen-exhausted core. We suggest that this could produce stars that explode as pair-instability supernovae (PISNe) with significantly more hydrogen, at a given metallicity, than in single-star models with the same pre-explosion oxygen-rich core mass. We investigate the subset of those stellar mergers that later produce pulsational PISNe, and estimate that the rate of such post-merger, hydrogen-rich pulsational PISNe could approach a few in a thousand of all core-collapse supernovae. The nature and predicted rate of such hydrogen-rich pulsational PISNe are reminiscent of the very unusual supernova iPTF14hls. For plausible assumptions, PISNe from similar mergers might dominate the rate of PISNe in the local Universe.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL29
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2019


  • Binaries: General
  • stars: Massive
  • supernovae: General

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