Supernova Remnants

A supernova remnant is the structure resulting from the explosion of a star in a supernova, bounded by an expanding shock wave, and consists of ejected material expanding from the explosion and the interstellar material it sweeps up. There are two common routes to a supernova: (1) a massive star may run out of fuel, ceasing to generate fusion energy in its core, and collapsing inward under the force of its own gravity to form a neutron star or a black hole; (2) a white dwarf star may accumulate material from a companion star until it reaches a critical mass and undergoes a thermonuclear explosion. In either case, the resulting supernova explosion expels much or all of the stellar material with velocities as much as 10% the speed of light, that is, about 30,000 km/s. These ejecta are highly supersonic: assuming a typical temperature of the interstellar medium of 10,000 K, the Mach number can initially be > 1000. Therefore, a strong shock wave forms ahead of the ejecta, that heats the upstream plasma up to temperatures well above millions of K. The shock continuously slows down over time as it sweeps up the ambient medium, but it can expand over hundreds of thousands of years and over tens of parsecs before its speed falls below the local sound speed.

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