Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tycho’s Remnant Provides Shocking Evidence for Cosmic Rays

26.09.2005


Chandra X-ray Image of Tycho’s Supernova Remnant. Credit: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/J.Warren & J.Hughes et al.


Astronomers have found compelling evidence that a supernova shock wave has produced a large amount of cosmic rays, particles of mysterious origin that constantly bombard the Earth. This discovery, made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, supports theoretical arguments that shock waves from stellar explosions may be a primary source of cosmic rays.

This finding is important for understanding the origin of cosmic rays, which are atomic nuclei that strike the Earth’s atmosphere with very high energies. Scientists believe that some are produced by flares on the Sun, and others by similar events on other stars, or pulsars or black hole accretion disks. But, one of the prime suspects has been supernova shock waves. Now, a team of astronomers has used Chandra observations of Tycho’s supernova remnant to strengthen the case for this explanation.

"With only a single object involved we can’t state with confidence that supernova shock waves are the primary source of cosmic rays," said John P. Hughes of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and coauthor of a report to be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "What we have done is present solid evidence that the shock wave in at least one supernova remnant has accelerated nuclei to cosmic ray energies."

In the year 1572, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observed and studied the sudden appearance of a bright "new star" in the constellation Cassiopeia. Now known as Tycho’s supernova remnant, the event created a sensation in Tycho’s time because it exploded the myth that stars never change.



Four centuries later, the Chandra results on Tycho’s remnant show that some modern ideas of the aftermath of supernova explosions may have to be revised. The report by Hughes and colleagues demonstrates that the shock wave produced by the explosive disruption of the star behaves in a way that cannot be explained by the standard theory.

The supernova debris is observed to expand at a speed of about six million miles per hour. This rapid expansion has created two X-ray emitting shock waves - one moving outward into the interstellar gas, and another moving inward into the stellar debris. These shock waves, analogous to the sonic boom produced by supersonic motion of an airplanes, produce sudden, large changes in pressure, and temperature behind the wave.

According to the standard theory, the outward-moving shock should be about two light-years ahead of the stellar debris (that’s half the distance from our sun to the nearest star). What Chandra found instead is that the stellar debris has kept pace with the outer shock and is only about half a light-year behind.

"The most likely explanation for this behavior is that a large fraction of the energy of the outward-moving shock wave is going into the acceleration of atomic nuclei to speeds approaching the speed of light," said Jessica Warren, also of Rutgers University, and the lead author of the report in the Astrophysical Journal.

Previous observations with radio and X-ray telescopes had established that the shock wave in Tycho’s remnant was accelerating electrons to high energies. However, since high-speed atomic nuclei produce very weak radio and X-ray emission also, it was not known whether the shock wave was accelerating nuclei as well. The Chandra observations provide the strongest evidence yet that nuclei are indeed accelerated, and that the energy contained in high-speed nuclei is about 100 times that in the electrons.

Hughes also pointed out that the Chandra result for Tycho’s remnant significantly changes astronomers’ view of the evolution of supernova remnants. A large component of cosmic ray nuclei alters the dynamics of the shock wave, and may require changing the way that astronomers estimate the explosive energy of a supernova from the properties of its remnant.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

nachricht What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>