Journal Article

Spectral evolution and polarization of variable structures in the pulsar wind nebula of PSR B0540−69.3

N. Lundqvist, P. Lundqvist, C.-I. Björnsson, G. Olofsson, S. Pires, Yu. A. Shibanov and D. A. Zyuzin

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 413, issue 1, pages 611-627
Published in print May 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Spectral evolution and polarization of variable structures in the pulsar wind nebula of PSR B0540−69.3

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We present high spatial resolution optical imaging and polarization observations of the PSR B0540−69.3 and its highly dynamical pulsar wind nebula (PWN) performed with Hubble Space Telescope, and compare them with X-ray data obtained with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. In particular, we have studied the bright region south-west of the pulsar where a bright ‘blob’ is seen in 1999. In a recent paper by De Luca et al. it was argued that the ‘blob’ moves away from the pulsar at high speed. We show that it may instead be a result of local energy deposition around 1999, and that the emission from this then faded away rather than moved outward. Polarization data from 2007 show that the polarization properties show dramatic spatial variations at the 1999 blob position arguing for a local process. Several other positions along the pulsar-‘blob’ orientation show similar changes in polarization, indicating previous recent local energy depositions. In X-rays, the spectrum steepens away from the ‘blob’ position, faster orthogonal to the pulsar-‘blob’ direction than along this axis of orientation. This could indicate that the pulsar-‘blob’ orientation is an axis along where energy in the PWN is mainly injected, and that this is then mediated to the filaments in the PWN by shocks. We highlight this by constructing an [S ii]-to-[O iii]-ratio map, and comparing this to optical continuum and X-ray emission maps. We argue, through modelling, that the high [S ii]/[O iii] ratio is not due to time-dependent photoionization caused by possible rapid X-ray emission variations in the ‘blob’ region. We have also created a multiwavelength energy spectrum for the ‘blob’ position showing that one can, to within 2σ, connect the optical and X-ray emission by a single power law. The slope of that power law (defined from ) would be αν= 0.74 ± 0.03, which is marginally different from the X-ray spectral slope alone with αν= 0.65 ± 0.03. A single power law for most of the PWN is, however, not be possible. We obtain best power-law fits for the X-ray spectrum if we include ‘extra’ oxygen, in addition to the oxygen column density in the interstellar gas of the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Milky Way. This oxygen is most naturally explained by the oxygen-rich ejecta of the supernova remnant. The oxygen needed likely places the progenitor mass in the 20–25 M range, i.e. in the upper mass range for progenitors of Type IIP supernovae.

Keywords: pulsars: individual: PSR B0540−69.3; supernovae: general; ISM: individual objects: SNR 0540−69.3; ISM: supernova remnants; Magellanic Clouds

Journal Article.  13582 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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