The blast wave of Tycho's supernova remnant

Gamil Cassam-Chenaï, John P. Hughes, Jean Ballet, Anne Decourchelle

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We use the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to study the region in the Tycho supernova remnant between the blast wave and the shocked ejecta interface or contact discontinuity. This zone contains all the history of the shock-heated gas and cosmic-ray acceleration in the remnant. We present for the first time evidence for significant spatial variations of the X-ray synchrotron emission in the form of spectral steepening from a photon index of ∼2.6 right at the blast wave to a value of ∼3.0 several arcseconds behind. We interpret this result along with the profiles of radio and X-ray intensity using a self-similar hydrodynamical model including cosmic-ray back-reaction that accounts for the observed ratio of radii between the blast wave and contact discontinuity. Two different assumptions were made about the postshock magnetic field evolution: one where the magnetic field (amplified at the shock) is simply carried by the plasma flow and remains relatively high in the postshock region (synchrotron losses limited rim case), and another where the amplified magnetic field is rapidly damped behind the blast wave (magnetic damping case). Both cases fairly well describe the X-ray data; however, both fail to explain the observed radio profile. The projected synchrotron emission leaves little room for the presence of thermal emission from the shocked ambient medium. This can only be explained if the preshock ambient medium density in the vicinity of the Tycho supernova remnant is below 0.6 cm-3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-340
Number of pages26
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Acceleration of particles
  • Cosmic rays ISM: individual (tycho, SN 1572)
  • Supernova remnants
  • X-rays: ISM


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