Supernova Remnants

Supernova Remnants

Supernova remnants are the aftermath of the violent deaths of stars, known as supernovae. The explosion of an entire star is a tremendous release of energy; a single supernova can outshine an entire galaxy for days or weeks. The supernova explosion propels the debris of the star at high velocities and initiates a shock wave propagating into the surroundings, while a second shock heats the ejecta.

Supernovae come in two basic types. Core-collapse supernovae involve the explosion of a massive star that runs out of fuel to burn. The core collapses in on itself, setting off a chain reaction that blows the star apart. A core-collapse supernova generally leaves behind a compact stellar remnant, such as a neutron star or a black hole. A thermonuclear supernova is the explosion of a white dwarf star, triggered by either the accretion of matter from a companion star or a collision or merger with another white dwarf.

Supernova remnants are fruitful laboratories for the study of the physics of heating and particle acceleration at shocks, the mechanism of supernova explosions, the chemical enrichment of the interstellar medium, the interaction of shocks and clouds, and the interaction of the remnant gas with compact stellar remnants. X-ray observations are relevant to all of these by providing access to the rich emission line spectra of supernova remnant gas and the nonthermal emission characteristic of particle acceleration. The fast shock waves that interact with both the interstellar medium and the stellar ejecta heat the gas there to tens of millions of degrees, hot enough to emit strongly in X-rays. Our SNR group studies the physics of supernova remnants and their interaction with the interstellar medium. We are also interested in the acceleration of cosmic rays by shock waves.

Group Members

  • Brian Williams
  • Toshiki Sato
  • Renata Cumbee
  • Rob Petre

Recent Activity at GSFC

  • Sato, T., et al. 2019, ApJ, 879, 64, "Genus Statistic Applied to the X-Ray Remnant of SN 1572: Clues to the Clumpy Ejecta Structure of Type Ia Supernovae"

  • Hitomi Collaboration 2018, PASJ, 70, 16, "Hitomi observations of the LMC SNR N 132 D: Highly redshifted X-ray emission from iron ejecta"

  • Williams, B.J., et al. 2018, ApJ, 865, 13, "The Expansion of the Young Supernova Remnant 0509-68.7 (N103B)"

  • Williams, B.J., et al. 2017, ApJ, 842, 28, "The Three-dimensional Expansion of the Ejecta from Tycho's Supernova Remnant"

  • Yamaguchi, H., et al. 2015, ApJ, 801, 31, "A Chandrasekhar Mass Progenitor for the Type Ia Supernova Remnant 3C 397 from the Enhanced Abundances of Nickel and Manganese"

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