A broadband X-ray study of supernova remnant 3C 397

S. Safi-Harb, R. Petre, K. A. Arnaud, J. W. Keohane, K. J. Borkowski, K. K. Dyer, S. P. Reynolds, J. P. Hughes

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21 Scopus citations


We present a broadband imaging and spectral study of the radio-bright supernova remnant (SNR) 3C 397 with ROSAT, ASCA, and RXTE. A bright X-ray spot seen in the HRI image hints at the presence of a pulsar-powered component and gives this SNR a composite X-ray morphology. Combined ROSAT and ASCA imaging shows that the remnant is highly asymmetric, with its X-ray emission peaking at the western lobe. The hard-band images obtained with the ASCA Gas Imaging Spectrometer show that much of the hard X-ray emission arises from the western lobe, associated with the SNR shell, with little hard X-ray emission associated with the central hot spot. The spectrum from 3C 397 is heavily absorbed and dominated by thermal emission with emission lines evident from Mg, Si, S, Ar and Fe. Single-component models fail to describe the X-ray spectrum, and at least two components are required: a soft component characterized by a low temperature and a large ionization timescale, and a hard component required to account for the Fe-K emission line and characterized by a much lower ionization timescale. We use a set of nonequilibrium ionization (NEI) models (Borkowski et al., in preparation), and find that the fitted parameters are robust. The temperatures from the soft and hard components are ∼0.2 keV and ∼1.6 keV respectively. The corresponding ionization timescales n0t (n0 being the preshock hydrogen density) are ∼6 × 1012 cm-3 s and ∼6 × 1010 cm-3 s, respectively. The large n0t of the soft component suggests it is approaching ionization equilibrium; thus it can be fit equally well with a collisional equilibrium ionization model. The spectrum obtained with the Proportional Counter Array (PCA) of RXTE is contaminated by emission from the Galactic ridge, with only ∼15% of the count rate originating from 3C 397 in the 5-15 keV range. The PCA spectrum allowed us to confirm the thermal nature of the hard X-ray emission. A third component originating from a pulsar-driven component is possible, but the contamination of the source signal by the Galactic ridge did not allow us to determine its parameters or find pulsations from any hidden pulsar. We discuss the X-ray spectrum in the light of two scenarios: a young ejecta-dominated remnant of a core-collapse SN, and a middle-aged SNR expanding in a dense ISM. In the first scenario, the hot component arises from the SNR shell, and the soft component from an ejecta-dominated component. 3C 397 would be a young SNR (a few thousand years old), but intermediate in dynamical age between the young historical shells (like Tycho or Kepler), and those that are well into the Sedov phase of evolution (like Vela). In the second scenario, the soft component represents the blast wave propagating in a dense medium, and the hard component is associated with hot gas encountering a fast shock, or arising from thermal conduction. In this latter scenario, the SNR would be ∼twice as old, and transitioning into the radiative phase. The current picture we present in this paper is marginally consistent with this scenario, but it cannot be excluded. A spatially resolved spectroscopic study is needed to resolve the soft and hard components and differentiate between the two scenarios. Future Chandra and XMM data will also address the nature of the mysterious central (radio-quiet) X-ray spot.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-938
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Dec 20 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: individual (3C 397)
  • Stars: neutron
  • Supernova remnants
  • X-rays: ISM


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