X-rays from supernova shocks in dense mass loss

Roger A. Chevalier*, Christopher M. Irwin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Type IIn and related supernovae show evidence for an interaction with a dense circumstellar medium that produces most of the supernova luminosity. X-ray emission from shock heated gas is crucial for the energetics of the interaction and can provide diagnostics on the shock interaction. Provided that the shock is at an optical depth τw ≲ c/vs in the wind, where c is the speed of light and vs is the shock velocity, a viscous shock is expected that heats the gas to a high temperature. For τw ≳ 1, the shock wave is in the cooling regime; inverse Compton cooling dominates bremsstrahlung at higher densities and shock velocities. Although τw ≳ 1, the optical depth through the emission zone is ≲ 1 so that inverse Compton effects do not give rise to significant X-ray emission. The electrons may not reach energy equipartition with the protons at higher shock velocities. As X-rays move out through the cool wind, the higher energy photons are lost to Compton degradation. If bremsstrahlung dominates the cooling and Compton losses are small, the energetic radiation can completely photoionize the preshock gas. However, inverse Compton cooling in the hot region and Compton degradation in the wind reduce the ionizing flux, so that complete photoionization is not obtained and photoabsorption by the wind further reduces the escaping X-ray flux. We conjecture that the combination of these effects led to the low observed X-ray flux from the optically luminous SN 2006gy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL17
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • X-rays: general
  • circumstellar matter
  • shock waves
  • supernovae: general
  • supernovae: individual (SN 2006gy)


Dive into the research topics of 'X-rays from supernova shocks in dense mass loss'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this