Identification of the Red Supergiant Progenitor of Supernova 2005cs: Do the Progenitors of Type II-P Supernovae Have Low Mass?


The stars that end their lives as supernovae (SNe) have been directly observed in only a handful of cases, mainly because of the extreme difficulty of identifying them in images obtained prior to the SN explosions. Here we report the identification of the progenitor for the recent Type II-plateau (core collapse) SN 2005cs in pre-explosion archival images of the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). From high-quality ground-based images of the SN obtained with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, we precisely determine the position of the SN and are able to isolate the SN progenitor to within 0.04`` in the HST ACS optical images. We further pinpoint the SN location to within 0.005’’ from HST ACS ultraviolet images of the SN, confirming our progenitor identification. From photometry of the SN progenitor obtained with the pre-SN ACS images, and also from limits to its brightness in pre-SN HST NICMOS images, we infer that the progenitor is a red supergiant star of spectral type K3-M4 with initial mass 10+/-3 M$_solar$. We also discuss the implications of the SN 2005cs progenitor identification and its mass estimate. There is an emerging trend that the most common Type II-plateau SNe originate from low-mass supergiants (8-20 M$_solar$).

Astrophysical Journal