Fast radiation mediated shocks and supernova shock breakouts

Research paper by Boaz Katz, Ran Budnik, Eli Waxman

Indexed on: 27 May '10Published on: 27 May '10Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena


We present a simple analytic model for the structure of non-relativistic and relativistic radiation mediated shocks. At shock velocities \beta_s\equiv v_s/c\gtrsim 0.1, the shock transition region is far from thermal equilibrium, since the transition crossing time is too short for the production of a black-body photon density (by Bremsstrahlung emission). In this region, electrons and photons (and positrons) are in Compton (pair) equilibrium at temperatures T_s significantly exceeding the far downstream temperature, T_s\gg T_d\approx 2(\varepsilon n_u \hbar^3c^3)^{1/4}. T_s\gtrsim 10 keV is reached at shock velocities \beta_s\approx 0.2. At higher velocities, \beta_s\gtrsim0.6, the plasma is dominated in the transition region by e^\pm pairs and 60 keV\lesssim T_s \lesssim 200 keV. We argue that the spectrum emitted during the breaking out of supernova shocks from the stellar envelopes (or the surrounding winds) of Blue Super Giants and Wolf-Rayet stars, which reach \beta_s>0.1 for reasonable stellar parameters, may include a hard component with photon energies reaching tens or even hundreds of keV. This may account for the X-ray outburst associated with SN2008D, and possibly for other SN-associated outbursts with spectra not extending beyond few 100 keV (e.g. XRF060218/SN2006aj).