Forbidden Line Emission from Type Ia Supernova Remnants Containing Balmer-dominated Shells

Chuan Jui Li, You Hua Chu, John C. Raymond, Bruno Leibundgut, Ivo R. Seitenzahl, Giovanni Morlino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Balmer-dominated shells in supernova remnants (SNRs) are produced by collisionless shocks advancing into a partially neutral medium and are most frequently associated with Type Ia supernovae. We have analyzed Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images and Very Large Telescope (VLT)/Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) or AAT/Wide Field Integral Spectrograph observations of five Type Ia SNRs containing Balmer-dominated shells in the LMC: 0509–67.5, 0519–69.0, N103B, DEM L71, and 0548–70.4. Contrary to expectations, we find bright forbidden-line emission from small dense knots embedded in four of these SNRs. The electron densities in some knots are higher than 104 cm−3. The size and density of these knots are not characteristic for interstellar medium—they most likely originate from a circumstellar medium ejected by the SN progenitor. Physical property variations of dense knots in the SNRs appear to reflect an evolutionary effect. The recombination timescales for high densities are short, and HST images of N103B taken 3.5 yr apart already show brightness changes in some knots. VLT/MUSE observations detect [Fe xiv] line emission from reverse shocks into SN ejecta as well as forward shocks into the dense knots. Faint [O iii] line emission is also detected from the Balmer shell in 0519–69.0, N103B, and DEM L71. We exclude the postshock origin because the [O iii] line is narrow. For the preshock origin, we considered three possibilities: photoionization precursor, cosmic-ray precursor, and neutral precursor. We conclude that the [O iii] emission arises from oxygen that has been photoionized by [He ii] λ304 photons and is then collisionally excited in a shock precursor heated mainly by cosmic rays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number141
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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