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The Astrophysical Journal


We present results from observations of supernova (SN) 1979C with the Newton X-Ray Multi-Mirror (XMM-Newton) mission in X-rays and in UV, archival X-ray, and Hubble Space Telescope (HST) data, and follow-up ground-based optical imaging. The XMM-Newton MOS spectrum shows the best-fit two-temperature thermal plasma emission characteristics of both the forward (kThigh = 4.1 keV) and reverse shock (kTlow = 0.79 keV) with no intrinsic absorption. The long-term X-ray light curve, constructed from all X-ray data available, reveals that SN 1979C is still radiating at a flux level similar to that detected by ROSAT in 1995, showing no sign of a decline over the last 6 years, some 16-23 yr after its outburst. The high inferred X-ray luminosity (L0.3-2 = 8 × 1038 ergs s-1) is caused by the interaction of the SN shock with dense circumstellar matter, likely deposited by a strong stellar wind from the progenitor with a high mass-loss rate of ≈ 1.5 × 10-4 M yr-1 (vw/10 km s-1). The X-ray data support a strongly decelerated shock and show a mass-loss rate history that is consistent with a constant progenitor mass-loss rate and wind velocity over the past 16,000 yr in the stellar evolution of the progenitor. We find a best-fit circumstellar medium (CSM) density profile of ρCSMr-s with index s 1.7 and high CSM densities (104 cm-3) out to large radii from the site of the explosion (r 4 × 1017 cm). Using XMM-Newton Optical Monitor data, we further detect a pointlike optical/UV source consistent with the position of SN 1979C, with B-, U-, and UVW1-band luminosities of 5, 7, and 9 × 1036 ergs s-1, respectively. The young stellar cluster in the vicinity of the SN, as imaged by the HST and follow-up ground-based optical imaging, can only provide a fraction of the total observed flux, so that a significant contribution to the output likely arises from the strong interaction of SN 1979C with dense CSM.