Search for Thermal X-ray Features from the Crab nebula with Hitomi Soft X-ray Spectrometer

Hitomi Collaboration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Crab nebula originated from a core-collapse supernova (SN) explosion observed in 1054 A. D. When viewed as a supernova remnant (SNR), it has an anomalously low observed ejecta mass and kinetic energy for an Fe-core collapse SN. Intensive searches were made for a massive shell that solves this discrepancy, but none has been detected. An alternative idea is that the SN 1054 is an electron-capture (EC) explosion with a lower explosion energy by an order of magnitude than Fe-core collapse SNe. In the X-rays, imaging searches were performed for the plasma emission from the shell in the Crab outskirts to set a stringent upper limit to the X-ray emitting mass. However, the extreme brightness of the source hampers access to its vicinity. We thus employed spectroscopic technique using the X-ray micro-calorimeter onboard the Hitomi satellite. By exploiting its superb energy resolution, we set an upper limit for emission or absorption features from yet undetected thermal plasma in the 2–12 keV range. We also re-evaluated the existing Chandra and XMM-Newton data. By assembling these results, a new upper limit was obtained for the X-ray plasma mass of < 1 M for a wide range of assumed shell radius, size, and plasma temperature both in and out of the collisional equilibrium. To compare with the observation, we further performed hydrodynamic simulations of the Crab SNR for two SN models (Fe-core versus EC) under two SN environments (uniform ISM versus progenitor wind). We found that the observed mass limit can be compatible with both SN models if the SN environment has a low density of < 0.03 cm−3 (Fe core) or < 0.1 cm−3 (EC) for the uniform density, or a progenitor wind density somewhat less than that provided by a mass loss rate of 10−5M yr−1 at 20 km s−1 for the wind environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalUnknown Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jun 30


  • Instrumentation: spectrographs
  • ISM individual (Crab nebula)
  • ISM: supernova remnants
  • Methods: observational

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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