We have identified a luminous star at the position of supernova (SN) 2011dh/PTF11eon, in pre-SN archival, multi-band images of the nearby, nearly face-on galaxy Messier 51 (M51) obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope with the Advanced Camera for Surveys. This identification has been confirmed, to the highest available astrometric precision, using a Keck-II adaptive-optics image. The available early-time spectra and photometry indicate that the SN is a stripped-envelope, core-collapse Type IIb, with a more compact progenitor (radius 1011cm) than was the case for the well-studied SN IIb 1993J. We infer that the extinction to SN 2011dh and its progenitor arises from a low Galactic foreground contribution, and that the SN environment is of roughly solar metallicity. The detected object has absolute magnitude M0 V -7.7 and effective temperature 6000K. The star's radius, 10 13cm, is more extended than what has been inferred for the SN progenitor. We speculate that the detected star is either an unrelated star very near the position of the actual progenitor, or, more likely, the progenitor's companion in a mass-transfer binary system. The position of the detected star in a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is consistent with an initial mass of 17-19 M⊙. The light of this star could easily conceal, even in the ultraviolet, the presence of a stripped, compact, very hot (105K), nitrogen-rich Wolf-Rayet star progenitor.
- galaxies: individual (NGC 5194)
- stars: evolution
- supernovae: general
- supernovae: individual (SN 2011dh)