Supernova remnants are among the most spectacular examples of astrophysical pistons in our cosmic neighborhood. The gas expelled by the supernova explosion is launched with velocities ∼1000 kilometers per second into the ambient, tenuous interstellar medium, producing shocks that excite hydrogen lines. We have used an optical integral-field spectrograph to obtain high-resolution spatial-spectral maps that allow us to study in detail the shocks in the northwestern rim of supernova 1006. The two-component H a line is detected at 133 sky locations. Variations in the broad line widths and the broad-to-narrow line intensity ratios across tens of atomic mean free paths suggest the presence of suprathermal protons, the potential seed particles for generating high-energy cosmic rays.
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