Researchers 'clear away the dust,' get better look at youngest supernova remnant

Apr 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at North Carolina State University have used a mathematical model that allows them to get a clearer picture of the galaxy's youngest supernova remnant by correcting for the distortions caused by cosmic dust. Their new data provides evidence that this remnant is from a type Ia supernova - the explosion of a white dwarf star - and raises questions about the ways in which magnetic fields affect the generation of the remnant's cosmic ray particles.

NC State physicists Dr. Stephen Reynolds and Dr. Kazimierz Borkowski, with colleagues from Cambridge University and NASA, re-examined their original X-ray images of supernova remnant G1.9+0.3 in an attempt to glean more information about the remnant's origins, rate of expansion, and any cosmic particles that may have resulted from the explosion. Scientists know that supernovae create cosmic rays - fast-moving that play a role in the formation of stars - but they aren't sure how this occurs or what other functions the particles may serve.

"We knew the dust was a problem - it's why we never saw the original supernova light in Victorian times," Reynolds says. "Our high-powered orbiting telescopes use X-rays to take pictures of these objects, and the dust scatters these X-rays, so in order to get data that might be helpful to us, we first had to correct for the dust distortion."

A allowed the scientists to deduce how many X-rays from each part of the remnant were scattered from another part. After this correction, they found that the "bright" and "dim" sides of the remnant had more and fewer of the highest-energy X-rays, respectively. Reynolds says that this pattern is best explained by a type Ia supernova, and that the difference in brightness corresponds to the level of synchrotronic X-rays present. Synchrotronic X-rays (like those produced by terrestrial synchrotron particle accelerators) are produced by high-energy cosmic particles, making this remnant one of the best examples of a cosmic ray accelerator that scientists have.

In addition, the location of the bright and dim sides point to the presence of a magnetic field that is affecting the remnant's acceleration process, and the distribution of .

The results were published in the April 20 edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"We use supernovae as flashbulbs across the universe (a means to make assumptions about how the universe works," Reynolds says. "Shockwaves from the explosions and the fast-moving cosmic particles that come from them play roles in galaxy formation. If we can figure out how these particles are energized, and how magnetic fields affect them, we'll be able to answer all sorts of questions about our universe."

Source: North Carolina State University (news : web)

Explore further: The riddle of galactic thin–thick disk solved

Related Stories

Chandra discovers relativistic pinball machine

Nov 15, 2006

New clues about the origins of cosmic rays, mysterious high-energy particles that bombard the Earth, have been revealed using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. An extraordinarily detailed image of the remains ...

On the Scent of a Pre-Historic Particle Accelerator?

Feb 09, 2006

An international team of astrophysicists have used the H.E.S.S. telescopes to uncover the trail of a 10,000 year old supernova at the heart of the Milky Way. In a paper published in Nature (6th February 2006), they descri ...

W28: A Mixed Bag of Supernova Remnant

Jun 04, 2008

When some stars die, they explode as supernovas and their debris fields (aka, "supernova remnants") expand into the surrounding environments. There are several different types, or categories, of supernova ...

Recommended for you

The riddle of galactic thin–thick disk solved

21 hours ago

A long-standing puzzle regarding the nature of disk galaxies has finally been solved by a team of astronomers led by Ivan Minchev from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), using state-of-the-art ...

Giant cosmic tsunami wakes up comatose galaxies

22 hours ago

Galaxies are often found in clusters, with many 'red and dead' neighbours that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now an international team of astronomers, led by Andra Stroe of Leiden Observatory ...

Astronomers find runaway galaxies

Apr 23, 2015

We know of about two dozen runaway stars, and have even found one runaway star cluster escaping its galaxy forever. Now, astronomers have spotted 11 runaway galaxies that have been flung out of their homes ...

Celestial fireworks celebrate Hubble's 25th anniversary

Apr 23, 2015

The glittering tapestry of young stars flaring to life in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image aptly resembles an exploding shell in a fireworks display. This vibrant image of the star cluster Westerlund ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.