Evolutionary status of SNR 1987A at the age of eighteen

Sangwook Park, Svetozar A. Zhekov, David N. Burrows, Gordon P. Garmire, Judith L. Racusin, Richard McCray

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Approximately 18 yr after the supernova explosion, the blast wave of SNR 1987A is entering the main body of the equatorial circumstellar material, which is causing a dramatic brightening of the remnant. We recently reported observational evidence for this event from our Chandra data (the work published in 2005 November by Park et al.)- We present here the temporal evolution of the X-ray-emitting shock parameters and the detailed description of the spectral and image analysis of SNR 1987A, on which our 2005 November work was based. While the remnant becomes brighter, the softening of the overall X-ray spectrum continues and is enhanced around day 6200 (since the explosion). The two-component shock model indicates that the electron temperatures have been changing for the last ∼6 yr. The X-ray spectrum is now described by kT ∼ 0.3 keV and 2.3 keV thermal plasmas that are believed to characteristically represent the shock-heated density gradient along the boundary between the H II region and the dense inner ring. As the blast wave sweeps through the inner circumstellar ring shining in X-rays, we expect that the shock parameters will continue to change, revealing the density and abundance structure of the inner ring. Follow-up Chandra observations will thus uncover the past history of the progenitor's stellar evolution. The origin of the relatively faint hard X-ray emission (E > 3 keV) from SNR 1987A is still unclear (thermal vs. nonthermal). Considering the continuous brightening of the hard-band intensity, as well as the soft-band flux, follow-up monitoring observations will also be essential to reveal the origin of the hard X-ray emission of SNR 1987A.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1001-1008
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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