Direct confirmation of the asymmetry of the Cas a supernova with light echoes

A. Rest, R. J. Foley, B. Sinnott, D. L. Welch, C. Badenes, A. V. Filippenko, M. Bergmann, W. A. Bhatti, S. Blondin, P. Challis, G. Damke, H. Finley, M. E. Huber, D. Kasen, R. P. Kirshner, T. Matheson, P. Mazzali, D. Minniti, R. Nakajima, G. NarayanK. Olsen, D. Sauer, R. C. Smith, N. B. Suntzeff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report the first detection of asymmetry in a supernova (SN) photosphere based on SN light echo (LE) spectra of Cas A from the different perspectives of dust concentrations on its LE ellipsoid. New LEs are reported based on difference images, and optical spectra of these LEs are analyzed and compared. After properly accounting for the effects of finite dust-filament extent and inclination, we find one field where the He I λ5876 and Hα features are blueshifted by an additional ∼4000kms-1 relative to other spectra and to the spectra of the Type IIb SN 1993J. That same direction does not show any shift relative to other Cas A LE spectra in the Ca II near-infrared triplet feature. We compare the perspectives of the Cas A LE dust concentrations with recent three-dimensional modeling of the SN remnant (SNR) and note that the location having the blueshifted He I and Hα features is roughly in the direction of an Fe-rich outflow and in the opposite direction of the motion of the compact object at the center of the SNR. We conclude that Cas A was an intrinsically asymmetric SN. Future LE spectroscopy of this object, and of other historical SNe, will provide additional insight into the connection of the explosion mechanism to SN then to SNR, as well as give crucial observational evidence regarding how stars explode.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ISM: individual objects (Cas A)
  • ISM: supernova remnants
  • supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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