The three-dimensional structure of Cassiopeia A

Tracey DeLaney, Lawrence Rudnick, M. D. Stage, J. D. Smith, Karl Isensee, Jeonghee Rho, Glenn E. Allen, Haley Gomez, Takashi Kozasa, William T. Reach, J. E. Davis, J. C. Houck

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118 Scopus citations


We used the Spitzer Space Telescope's Infrared Spectrograph to map nearly the entire extent of Cassiopeia A between 5 and 40μm. Using infrared and Chandra X-ray Doppler velocity measurements, along with the locations of optical ejecta beyond the forward shock, we constructed a three-dimensional model of the remnant. The structure of Cas A can be characterized into a spherical component, a tilted thick disk, and multiple ejecta jets/pistons and optical fast-moving knots all populating the thick disk plane. The Bright Ring in Cas A identifies the intersection between the thick plane/pistons and a roughly spherical reverse shock. The ejecta pistons indicate a radial velocity gradient in the explosion. Some ejecta pistons are bipolar with oppositely directed flows about the expansion center while some ejecta pistons show no such symmetry. Some ejecta pistons appear to maintain the integrity of the nuclear burning layers while others appear to have punched through the outer layers. The ejecta pistons indicate a radial velocity gradient in the explosion. In three dimensions, the Fe jet in the southeast occupies a "hole" in the Si-group emission and does not represent "overturning," as previously thought. Although interaction with the circumstellar medium affects the detailed appearance of the remnant and may affect the visibility of the southeast Fe jet, the bulk of the symmetries and asymmetries in Cas A are intrinsic to the explosion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2038-2058
Number of pages21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2010


  • ISM: individual objects (Cassiopeia A)
  • ISM: supernova remnants
  • Infrared: ISM
  • X-rays: ISM


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