The Hα diagnostic of electron heating: the case of DEM L71.
RAKOWSKI C.E., GHAVAMIAN P. and LAMING J.M.
Abstract (from CDS):
Recently, the mechanisms and extent of immediate postshock heating of electrons at collisionless shocks have been under intense investigation. Several recent studies have suggested that the ratio of electron to proton temperature at the shock front scales approximately as the inverse square of the shock velocity. A specific interpretation of this dependence was first introduced by Ghavamian et al., who suggested electron heating by lower-hybrid waves in a cosmic ray (CR) precursor as a possible mechanism behind such a relationship. The best line diagnostics for the electron to proton temperature ratio behind collisionless shocks in partially neutral gas are the combination of broad and narrow Hα lines emitted in the immediate vicinity of the shock front. In this work, we present extensive long-slit spectroscopy of the Hα emission in the blast wave shock of supernova remnant DEM L71. We chose this remnant for two main reasons. First, the shock velocities in DEM L71 span the range of speeds where the electron to proton temperature ratio varies most rapidly with shock speed. Second, previous Fabry-Perot scans of the Hα line complex indicated broad-to-narrow flux ratios lower than existing models predicted, but the spectral coverage of those observations was not broad enough to reliably measure the background emission around the broad component Hα line. Our new high-resolution (R ≳ 1600) spectra of DEM L71 provide extensive coverage of the background near the Hα line and confirm our earlier Fabry-Perot results of consistently low (≲1) broad-to-narrow flux ratios. Here, we present results of these observations and also outline the first results from spectra of radiative portions of DEM L71. We compare our results to the latest models of Hα profiles from collisionless shocks. We conclude that the most likely explanation for the low broad-to-narrow flux ratio is the ionization and excitation of neutrals by electrons heated in the extended CR precursor.