Research published recently in the Astrophysical Journal attempts to shine a light on a long-standing mystery surrounding Supernova Remnant 1987A. Since 1992 the radio emission from one side of the remnant has appeared ‘brighter’ than the other.
In an effort to solve this puzzle, Dr Toby Potter, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has developed this detailed three-dimensional simulation of the expanding supernova shockwave.
By introducing asymmetry into the explosion and adjusting the gas properties of the surrounding environment, he has been able to reproduce a number of observed features from the real supernova including the persistent one-sidedness.
This time evolving model maps the remnant as it evolves between May of 1989 and July of 2014. It shows the eastern (left) side of the expanding shock front expanding more quickly than the other side, generating more radio emission than its weaker counterpart. This effect becomes even more apparent as the shock collides into the equatorial ring, as observed in Hubble Space Telescope images of the supernova.
The fact that the model matches the observations so well means that we now have a good handle on the physics of the expanding remnant and are beginning to understand the composition of the environment surrounding the supernova.
‘Spectral and Morphological Analysis of the Remnant of Supernova 1987a with ALMA & ATCA’ G. Zanardo, L.
‘Multi-dimensional simulations of the expanding supernova remnant SN 1987a’ T.M Potter, L Staveley-Smith, B. Reville et al. Published in the Astrophysical Journal October 20th, 20144. Available at iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/794/2/174.