Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Supernova remnant masers: Shock interactions with molecular clouds
by Hewitt, John William, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2009, 228; 3386527
Abstract (Summary)

Maser emission from the 1720-MHz transition of hydroxyl (OH) has identified shock interactions in 10% of all supernova remnants (SNRs). Such maser-emitting SNRs are also bright in molecular line emission. Though somewhat rare, SNRs interacting with dense molecular clouds are an important class in which to study cosmic ray acceleration, SNR evolution, and effects on the energetics and chemistry of the interstellar medium. To study molecular shocks via a multiwavelength approach, the VLA, GBT, Spitzer Space Telescope have been used in the following ways: (i) With the GBT widespread OH (1720 MHz) emission and absorption in other OH lines is observed across the interaction site. Observations of all four ground-state transitions at 1720, 1667/5 and 1612 MHz allows us to model OH excitation, yielding the temperature, density and OH abundance in the post-shock gas. Maser emission is found to have a higher flux density with the GBT than with high-resolution VLA observations for 10 of 15 observed remnants, suggesting maser emission is present on large spatial scales. (ii) Sensitive VLA observations of select SNRs (W44, IC 443, Kes 69, 3C 391, G357.7+0.3) reveal the nature of enhanced 1720 MHz emission. Numerous weak compact masers as well as diffuse extended emission are detected tracing the shock-front. Zeeman splitting of masers permits the post-shock magnetic field strength and the line of sight field direction to be directly measured. (iii) Rotational lines of molecular hydrogen are detected at the position of several masers with Spitzer IRS spectroscopy between 5 and 35 μm. Excitation of the hydrogen lines requires the passage of a C-type shock through dense molecular gas, in agreement with the conditions derived from OH excitation. The presence of bright ionic lines requires multiple shocks present at the interaction site. (iv) A new survey for SNR-masers has identified four new interacting SNRs within 10 degrees of the Galactic Center. Maser-emitting SNRs are found to be preferentially distributed in the inner Galaxy, and preferentially associated with gamma-ray sources. To date, nine remnants with TeV or GeV-energy coincidences also harbor OH(1720 MHz) masers, making this signpost of interaction a potential signpost of cosmic-ray acceleration as well. The enhanced local cosmic ray density is a viable mechanism to produce the high columns of OH which are observed in these sources.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Yusef-Zadeh, Farhad
Commitee: Meyer, David, Novak, Giles
School: Northwestern University
Department: Physics and Astronomy
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Astronomy
Keywords: Hydroxyl, Masers, Molecular clouds, Shock, Supernova remnants
Publication Number: 3386527
ISBN: 978-1-109-51874-0
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