This thesis considers the various morphologies of radio supernova remnants (SNRs), and attempts to determine whether their appearance results from the properties of the progenitor star and its supernova explosion, or from the structure of the interstellar medium (ISM) and ambient magnetic field into which a SNR consequently expands. High-resolution observations of Supernova 1987A show a young remnant whose appearance and evolution are completely dominated by the structure of its progenitor wind. A statistical study of the Galactic population of bilateral SNRs demonstrates that the symmetry axes of these remnants run parallel to the Galactic Plane. This result can be explained by the interaction of main sequence stellar wind-bubbles with the ambient magnetic field; expansion of SNRs into the resulting elongated cavities results in a bilateral appearance with the observed alignment. Radio observations of SNR G296.8-00.3 show a double-ringed morphology which is best explained by expansion either into an anisotropic main-sequence progenitor wind or into multiple cavities in the ISM. Data on SNRs G309.2-00.6 and G320.4-01.2 (MSH 15-52) make a strong case that the appearance of both remnants is significantly affected by collimated outflows from a central source; for G309.2-00.6 the source itself is not detected, but for G320.4-01.2 there is now compelling evidence that the remnant is associated with and is interacting with the young pulsar PSR B1509-58. I conclude that, while the youngest SNRs are shaped by their progenitor's circumstellar material, the appearance of most SNRs reflects the properties of the local ISM and magnetic field. Remnants which interact with an associated pulsar or binary system appear to be rare, and are easily distinguished by their unusual and distorted morphologies.
- Pub Date:
- May 1999