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The Astrophysical Journal


Broadband optical and narrowband Si XIII X-ray images of the young Galactic supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) obtained over several decades are used to investigate spatial and temporal emission correlations on both large and small angular scales. The data examined consist of optical and near infrared ground-based and Hubble Space Telescope images taken between 1951 and 2011, and X-ray images from Einstein, ROSAT, and Chandra taken between 1979 and 2013. We find weak spatial correlations between the remnant’s X-ray and optical emission features on large scales, but several cases of good optical/X-ray correlations on small scales for features which have brightened due to recent interaction with the reverse shock. We also find instances where: (i) a time delay is observed between the appearance of a feature’s optical and X-ray emissions, (ii) displacements of several arcseconds between a feature’s X-ray and optical emission peaks and, (iii) regions showing no corresponding X- ray or optical emissions. To explain this behavior, we propose a highly inhomogeneous density model for Cas A’s ejecta consisting of small, dense optically emitting knots (n ∼ 102−3 cm−3) and a much lower density (n ∼ 0.1 − 1 cm−3) diffuse X-ray emitting component often spatially associated with optical emission knots. The X-ray emitting component is sometimes linked to optical clumps through shock induced mass ablation generating trailing material leading to spatially offset X-ray/optical emissions. A range of ejecta densities can also explain the observed X-ray/optical time delays since the remnant’s ≈ 5000 km s−1 reverse shock heats dense ejecta clumps to temperatures around 3 × 104K relatively quickly which then become optically bright while more diffuse ejecta become X-ray bright on longer timescales. Highly inhomogeneous ejecta as proposed here for Cas A may help explain some of the X-ray/optical emission features seen in other young core collapse SN remnants.




Patnaude, Daniel J.||Fesen, Robert A.