Imagine the Universe!

On the Edge of: Supernova Remnants

Some scientists are interested in supernova remnants (SNRs), i.e., the remains of exploded stars. Supernova remnants are actually hot gases that have been hurtled into space by the force of a supernova (SN) explosion. Some of the remnants are thousands of years old and many hundreds of light years wide. Supernova remnants are important to astronomers because they are the major source of energy, heavy elements and cosmic rays in our Galaxy. In order to understand how our Galaxy evolves, how new stars are created, how gas is recycled and energy is redistributed, it is essential to understand SN explosions and their remnants. The general areas of SNR research can be divided up into the four listed below:

SNR Research

  • Acceleration of Cosmic Rays: These particles found throughout space have energies a billion times greater than those created in our most powerful particle accelerators. Where do they come from? Scientists have long thought that Supernova Remnants may be responsible...but how?

  • X-ray Spectroscopy of young SNR: You can't very well study a star that exploded hundreds or thousands of years ago... Or can you? Scientists use spectroscopy as clues to what the star was like before it blew up and became a spectacular supernova remnant.


  • Interaction between SNR and the Interstellar Medium (ISM): Since the forward shock of the remnant heats and compresses the gas it encounters, making it radiate strongly in the X-ray, studying the X-ray emission from SNRs as they sweep up interstellar gas is a good way to learn about the mysteries of the ISM.


  • Thermal Conduction: This process could be responsible for a new class of SNR that do not look like SNR theories predict. What is happening in the middle of these remnants to make them X-ray bright? Examining how thermal conduction works in SNR can reveal how it works in the ISM in general.

  • Do you want to see a sample list of publications?

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Imagine the Universe! is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

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Project Leader: Dr. Barbara Mattson
Curator: J.D. Myers
Responsible NASA Official: Phil Newman
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This page last updated: Thursday, 11-Jan-2007 09:01:25 EST