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The western edge of the Cygnus Loop supernova remnant provides an important opportunity to study blast wave--interstellar cloud interactions. On the western edge of the Loop is an extensive coherent network of bright optical filaments from fast radiative shocks. This region is unique within the Cygnus Loop, because the remnant appears to be running into a large molecular cloud in this direction.
To study this interaction we have obtained deep wide-field optical line images and X-ray observations with the ROSAT High Resolution Imager. The optical data show a variety of shocks, including non-radiative Balmer-line filaments, incomplete shocks, and shocks with complete cooling and recombination zones.
The ROSAT-HRI data show bright, sharply limb-brightened X-rays confined behind the edge of the shock front delineated by the optical filaments. The Einstein-IPC data at this location has been interpreted as an enhancement due to thermal evaporation (Charles et al. 1985). Comparison of the optical and X-ray data sugests that the western limb geometry is simple. If there is evaporation, it must occur across a surface defined by a radiative shock, which contains very strong, highly ordered magnetic fields aligned in the plane of the shock. An alternative explanation for the coincidence of the bright X-rays and the radiative filaments is that compression of the post-blast wave gas by a reverse shock results in increased brightness. In either case, because of the simple geometry in this region, the X-ray emission behind the blast wave offers perhaps the clearest evidence of the structure of the post-blast wave medium in any middle-aged remnant.
Charles, P. A., Kahn, S. M., and McKee, C. F. 1985 ApJ 295 456
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