Observing Supernova 1987A with the Refurbished Hubble Space Telescope

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Science  02 Sep 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192134


Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), conducted since 1990, now offer an unprecedented glimpse into fast astrophysical shocks in the young remnant of supernova 1987A. Comparing observations taken in 2010 using the refurbished instruments on HST with data taken in 2004, just before the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph failed, we find that the Lyα and Hα lines from shock emission continue to brighten, while their maximum velocities continue to decrease. We observe broad blueshifted Lyα, which we attribute to resonant scattering of photons emitted from hotspots on the equatorial ring. We also detect N v λλ1239,1243 Å line emission, but only to the red of Lyα. The profiles of the N v lines differ markedly from that of Hα, suggesting that the N4+ ions are scattered and accelerated by turbulent electromagnetic fields that isotropize the ions in the collisionless shock.