While supernova remnants (SNRs) have long been considered prime candidates for the source of cosmic rays, at least to energies up to ~10^14 eV, it is only over the past several years that direct evidence of such energetic particles in SNRs has been uncovered. X-ray observations of several shell-type SNRs have now revealed sites dominated by nonthermal emission, indicating an electron population whose energy extends far beyond the thermal distribution typical of such SNRs. In other remnants, discrepancies between the shock velocity and the electron temperature points to a strong cosmic ray component that has essentially thrived at the expense of the thermal component of the gas. Modeling of the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray emission provides strong constraints on the acceleration mechanism as well as the properties of the ambient medium in which the mechanism prospers. In the innermost regions of some SNRs, particle acceleration is taking place over much different scales. The formation of Crab-like pulsar wind nebulae (PWNe) is understood to require the presence of a termination shock at which the relativistic pulsar wind is forced to join the slow expansion of the outer nebula. While the acceleration mechanism is necessarily different, these shocks also act as sites in which particles are boosted to high energies. In the Crab Nebula, optical wisps mark the location of this termination shock. Recent X-ray observations have begun to reveal the termination shock zones in other PWNe, and are now allowing us to constrain the nature of the pulsar wind as well as the flow conditions in the outer nebula. Here I present a summary of the properties of shock acceleration in these two distinct regions of SNRs, and review recent observational results in which the properties of the shocks are finally being revealed.
- Pub Date:
- May 2002
- Invited talk, to appear in the proceedings of the XXII Moriond Astrophysics Meeting "The Gamma-Ray Universe", eds. A. Goldwurm, D. Neumann, and J. Tran Than van. Contains 10 pages, 6 figures. Latex style file included