An Integral View of Fast Shocks Around Supernova 1006

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Science  05 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6128, pp. 45-48
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228297

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A Supernova in 3D

When a star explodes, it expels matter at supersonic speeds. Nikolić et al. (p. 45, published online 14 February) used integral-field spectroscopy to obtain high-resolution, spatially resolved spectra of the shock waves associated with supernova 1006. The physical characteristics of the shocks around this supernova exhibit a strong spatial variation that suggests the presence of suprathermal (∼10 to 100 keV) protons, which are the potential seeds for generating cosmic rays.


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 Hα 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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