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Gamma-rays and X-rays from SN1987A


Detections of γ-rays1 and X-rays2,3 from Supernova 1987A, together with its exponential light curve4, have dramatically confirmed theoretical predictions made two decades ago5–7. We discuss what these observations, in August and September 1987, can already tell us about the supernova. Assuming that all of the high-energy photons originate from 56Co decay, the escaping photon intensities at various energies are related by the characteristics of the scattering medium and the physics of the scattering processes. Considering only these factors, we conclude that the total mass of 56Co implied by the light curve is not uniformly shielded by a thick envelope. Extensive 'mixing' of 56Co (initially 56Ni) and other heavy elements through the supernova envelope might explain the observations. It is likely that a small fraction of the 56Co mass implied by the light curve has been removed by some mechanism to nearly thin regions.

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Leising, M. Gamma-rays and X-rays from SN1987A. Nature 332, 516–518 (1988).

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