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J.M. Blondin, K.J. Borkowski (NCSU), R. McCray (JILA/CU)
Soft X-rays from SNR\,1987A were first detected by ROSAT about 1450 days after the explosion and have continued to brighten since then. This X-ray emission and the radio emission seen by the Australia Telescope most likely come from the shocked material behind a blast wave driven into a relatively dense H\,II region that separates the shocked stellar wind of the supernova progenitor from the inner circumstellar ring. In the ultraviolet, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrometer (STIS) onboard the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) detected the reverse shock driven into the expanding ejecta by their interaction with the H\,II region. Recent imaging at optical wavelengths with the Wide Field Planetary Camera (WFPC2) onboard the HST revealed the detailed geometry of the reverse shock in the ring plane. Optical and ultraviolet observations with the HST showed that the blast wave hit the protruding part of the inner ring on its near (north) side, creating an optical ``hot'' spot.
The next breakthrough will be provided in the near future by observations with X-ray satellites: AXAF, XMM, and Astro-E. These observations will be crucial for understanding SNR\,1987A, because X-rays probe the bulk of the shocked gas, unlike UV and optical observations.
In anticipation of this progress in X-ray observations, we have been modeling X-ray spectra and morphology of SNR\,1987A, using the hydrodynamical code VH-1 and a nonequilibrium ionization X-ray emission code. With our two-dimensional hydrodynamical calculations, we attempt to reproduce the reverse shock geometry as seen by the HST. The calculated X-ray spectrum at the current time is dominated by strong Ly\alpha and He\alpha lines of H-like and He-like N, O, and Ne ions. For comparison with future AXAF observations, we also simulated X-ray images. The predicted arclike emission regions in the ring plane resemble images of SNR\,1987A obtained with the HST and the Australia Telescope. The optical ``hot'' spot may also become a significant source of X-ray emission in the near future.
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