Infrared and X-ray evidence for circumstellar grain destruction by the blast wave of supernova 1987A

Eli Dwek, Richard G. Arendt, Patrice Bouchet, David N. Burrows, Peter Challis, I. John Danziger, James M. De Buizer, Robert D. Gehrz, Robert P. Kirshner, Richard McCray, Sangwook Park, Elisha F. Polomski, Charles E. Woodward

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Multiwavelength observations of supernova remnant 1987A show that its morphology and luminosity are rapidly changing at X-ray, optical, infrared ( IR), and radio wavelengths as the blast wave from the explosion expands into the circumstellar equatorial ring, produced by mass loss from the progenitor star. The observed IR radiation arises from the interaction of dust grains that fonned in mass outflow with the soft X-ray-emitting plasma component of the shocked gas. Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph spectra at 5-30 μm taken on day 6190 since the explosion show that the emission arises from ∼ 1.1 × 10 -6 M⊙ of silicate grains radiating at a temperature of ∼180 15+20 K. Subsequent observations on day 7137 show that the IR flux had increased by a factor of 2 while maintaining an almost identical spectral shape. The observed IR-to-X-ray flux ratio (IRX) is consistent with that of a dusty plasma with standard Large Magellanic Cloud dust abundances. IRX has decreased by a factor of ∼2 between days 6190 and 7137, providing the first direct observation of the ongoing destruction of dust in an expanding supernova blast wave on dynamic timescales. Detailed models consistent with the observed dust temperature, the ionization timescale of the soft X-ray emission component, and the evolution of IRX suggest that the radiating silicate grains are immersed in a 3.5 × 106 K plasma with a density of (0.3-1) × 104 cm-3 and have a size distribution that is confined to a narrow range of radii between 0.023 and 0.22 μm. Smaller grains may have been evaporated by the initial UV flash from the supernova.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1039
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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