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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: August 2010

X-Rays and γ-Rays from SN 1987A

from SN 1987A, SN 1993J, and Other Supernovae


Theoretical light curves and spectra of X-rays and γ-rays from SN 1987A are calculated by the Monte Carlo method, based on a model built up from the early observations of neutrinos and optical light. Comparison of the predicted radiation with observational results obtained later confirms the radiation mechanism of supernovae: γ-rays are emitted in the decays of radioactive 56Co and X-rays are generated by the Compton degradation of these γ-rays. It also suggests that large scale mixing occurred and clumpy structure was formed inside the ejecta. These findings lead us to construct the model with a new distribution of elements, which is determined through comparisons of observations of X-rays and γ-rays with numerical simulations based on the assumed distribution. Using this model, the subsequent X-ray and γ-ray emission is predicted: the light curves of X-rays and γ-rays as well as their spectral evolution are in very good agreement with that expected from the radioactive decays of 56Co and 57Co. The mass of newly synthesized 44Ti and the emission from the neutron star will be determined by future satellite and balloon-borne observations.


SN 1987A has given us an invaluable chance to examine supernova theory, which has predicted the emergence of X-ray and γ-ray radiation from supernovae. Several possible mechanisms for the X-ray and γ-ray emission have been discussed, such as collision of the ejecta with circumstellar matter, nonthermal radiation from a pulsar, and Compton degradation of the line γ-rays emitted by radioactive nuclei.