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The fast shocks that characterize supernova remnants heat circumstellar and ejecta material to extremely high temperatures, resulting in significant X-ray emission. The X-ray spectrum from an SNR carries a wealth of information about the temperature and ionization state of the plasma, the density distribution of the postshock material, and the composition of the ejecta. This, in turn, places strong constraints on the properties of the progenitor star, the explosive nucleosynthesis that produced the remnant, the properties of the environment into which the SNR expands, and the effects of particle acceleration on its dynamical evolution. Here I present results from X-ray studies SNRs in various evolutionary states, and highlight key results inferred from the thermal emission.
As the presumed remnant of SN 1181, 3C 58 houses one of the youngest known neutron stars in the Galaxy. The properties of this young pulsar and its associated pulsar wind nebula (PWN) differ considerably from those of the Crab Nebula, and may well offer a more typical example of the endpoint of massive star collapse. High resolution X-ray studies reveal structures in the inner nebula that may be associated with the pulsar wind termination shock, a jet that may be aligned with the rotation axis, and other regions of enhanced emission. Spectral variations in the PWN are consistent with the expected evolution of the postshock flow, and complex loops of emission are seen in the nebula interior. Limits on the neutron star surface temperature fall below standard cooling models, indicating that some more rapid neutrino cooling process is required. The outer regions of 3C 58 show thermal emission with enhanced levels of neon, indicative of shocked ejecta bounding the PWN.
We report the discovery of pulsed X-ray emission from the compact object CXOU J112439.1-591620 within the Galactic supernova remnant G292.0+1.8 using the High Resolution Camera on the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The X-ray period is consistent with the extrapolation of the radio period and spindown rate of PSR J1124−5916. The X-ray pulse is single peaked and broad. There is no optical counterpart to a limit of MV ∼ 26. The pressure in the pulsar wind nebula is considerably less than that in the reverse-shock-heated ejecta and circumstellar medium, indicating that the reverse shock has not yet begun to interact with the nebula.
We present results from our analysis of Chandra data on the supernova remnant MSH 11–62 (also known as G291.0−0.1). Our previous ASCA analysis showed that MSH 11–62 is most likely a composite remnant whose strong non-thermal emission is powered by a compact object, most probably a pulsar. The present analysis confirms in a spectacular fashion the earlier detection of a compact source. The Chandra data reveal a small region with a hard non-thermal spectrum located at the tip of the central radio emission seen in data taken at the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA). This source is likely the young rapidly rotating neutron star powering the synchrotron nebula in MSH 11–62. Compared to other young rotation-powered pulsars the Chandra specrum of MSH 11–62 implies an energy loss rate of Ė ∼ 5 × 1036 ergs s−1.
We show some examples from a WWW-based catalog, containing Chandra archive data, that is now under construction. Many remnants show manifestations of internal neutron stars, which are of particular interest to this conference.
With sub-arcsecond angular resolution accompanied by fast time resolution and spatially resolved spectral capabilities, the Chandra X-ray Observatory provides a unique capability for the study of supernova remnants (SNRs) and pulsars. Though in its relative infancy, Chandra has already returned stunning images of SNRs which reveal the distribution of ejecta synthesized in the stellar explosions, the distinct properties of the forward and reverse shocks, and the presence of faint shells surrounding compact remnants. Pulsar observations have uncovered jet features as well as small-scaled structures in synchrotron nebulae. In this brief review we discuss results from early Chandra studies of pulsars and SNRs.
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