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The Astrophysical Journal, Supplement Series


We present the results of an optical search for supernova remnants (SNRs) in the spiral galaxies NGC 5204, NGC 5585, NGC 6946, M81, and M101. Using the criterion that emission nebulae with [S II]/Hα ≥ 0.45 are identified as SNRs, we found three SNRs in NGC 5204, five in NGC 5585, 27 in NGC 6946, 41 in M81, and 93 in M101. Including the 35 SNRs recently detected in NGC 2403 by Matonick et al., we have doubled the current number of galaxies that have been well searched for SNRs and increased the number of known extragalactic SNRs by about 50%. Since no SNRs were detected inside H II regions and because our optical search appears biased against detecting large, faint SNRs, we estimate that there could be 4 times more SNRs in each of our target galaxies than we detected. Statistical analysis of the spatial distribution of detected SNRs indicates that those in NGC 2403, M81, and M101 are associated with star-forming regions (e.g., H II regions, spiral arms, and molecular clouds), suggesting that a significant fraction of the detected SNRs are the result of SN II or SN Ib/c explosions. Thirty-one SNRs found in these six galaxies have estimated diameters greater than 100 pc, which is larger than is possible for a single SNR in an interstellar medium of density ~0.1-1 cm-3. Such objects are probably combinations of multiple SNRs and massive stellar winds.

We present an overview of extragalactic SNR searches, combining our SNR samples with published results of optical SNR searches in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and in M31, M33, NGC 300, and NGC 7793 to create an ensemble of 12 SNR samples. From these data, we find that an important selection effect is the apparent trend for higher L(Hα)mode with increasing galaxy distance because intrinsically fainter SNRs are more difficult to detect in more distant galaxies. In addition, several physical trends were found in the SNR ensemble, including a constant value of Dmode ≈ 40 pc for the SNR samples in these galaxies, suggesting that a significant fraction of the detected SNRs are in a similar evolutionary stage.