Modeling the Hubble Space Telescope ultraviolet and optical spectrum of spot 1 on the circumstellar ring of SN 1987A

Chun S.J. Pun*, Eli Michael, Svetozar A. Zhekov, Richard McCray, Peter M. Garnavich, Peter M. Challis, Robert P. Kirshner, E. Baron, David Branch, Roger A. Chevalier, Alexei V. Filippenko, Claes Fransson, Bruno Leibundgut, Peter Lundqvist, Nino Panagia, M. M. Phillips, Brian Schmidt, George Sonneborn, Nicholas B. Suntzeff, Lifan WangJ. Craig Wheeler

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    53 Citations (Scopus)


    We report and interpret Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) long-slit observations of the optical and ultraviolet (1150-10270 Å) emission line spectra of the rapidly brightening spot 1 on the equatorial ring of SN 1987A between 1997 September and 1999 October (days 3869-4606 after outburst). The emission is caused by radiative shocks created where the supernova blast wave strikes dense gas protruding inward from the equatorial ring. We measure and tabulate line identifications, fluxes, and, in some cases, line widths and shifts. We compute flux correction factors to account for substantial interstellar line absorption of several emission lines. Nebular analysis shows that optical emission lines come from a region of cool (Te ≈ 104 K) and dense (ne ≈ 106 cm-3) gas in the compressed photoionized layer behind the radiative shock. The observed line widths indicate that only shocks with shock velocities Vs < 250 km s -1 have become radiative, while line ratios indicate that much of the emission must have come from yet slower (Vs ≲ 135 km s -1) shocks. Such slow shocks can be present only if the protrusion has atomic density n ≳ 3 × 104 cm-3, somewhat higher than that of the circumstellar ring. We are able to fit the UV fluxes with an idealized radiative shock model consisting of two shocks (Vs = 135 and 250 km s-1). The observed UV flux increase with time can be explained by the increase in shock surface areas as the blast wave overtakes more of the protrusion. The observed flux ratios of optical to highly ionized UV lines are greater by a factor of ∼2-3 than predictions from the radiative shock models, and we discuss the possible causes. We also present models for the observed Ha line widths and profiles, which suggest that a chaotic flow exists in the photoionized regions of these shocks. We discuss what can be learned with future observations of all the spots present on the equatorial ring.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)906-931
    Number of pages26
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Issue number2 I
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2002


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