Spitzer spectral mapping of supernova remnant cassiopeia A

J. D.T. Smith, Lawrence Rudnick, Tracey Delaney, Jeonghee Rho, Haley Gomez, Takashi Kozasa, William Reach, Karl Isensee

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61 Scopus citations


We present the global distribution of fine-structure infrared line emission in the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared spectrograph. We identify emission from ejecta materials in the interior, prior to their encounter with the reverse shock, as well as from the postshock bright ring. The global electron density increases by ≳ 100 at the shock to ∼104 cm-3, providing evidence for strong radiative cooling. There is also a dramatic change in ionization state at the shock, with the fading of emission from low-ionization interior species like [Si II] giving way to [S IV] and, at even further distances, high-energy X-rays from hydrogenic silicon. Two compact, crescent-shaped clumps with highly enhanced neon abundance are arranged symmetrically around the central neutron star. These neon crescents are very closely aligned with the "kick" direction of the compact object from the remnant's expansion center, tracing a new axis of explosion asymmetry. They indicate that much of the apparent macroscopic elemental mixing may arise from different compositional layers of ejecta now passing through the reverse shock along different directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-721
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009


  • X-rays: ISM
  • infrared: general
  • supernova remnants
  • supernovae: individual (Cassiopeia A)


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