Yamaguchi, Hiroya, Eriksen, Kristoffer A., Badenes, Carles, Hughes, John P., Brickhouse, Nancy S., Foster, Adam R., Patnaude, Daniel J., Petre, Robert, Slane, Patrick O., and Smith, Randall K. 2014. "New Evidence for Efficient Collisionless Heating of Electrons at the Reverse Shock of a Young Supernova Remnant." The Astrophysical Journal 780:136. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/780/2/136
Although collisionless shocks are ubiquitous in astrophysics, certain key aspects of them are not well understood. In particular, the process known as collisionless electron heating, whereby electrons are rapidly energized at the shock front, is one of the main open issues in shock physics. Here, we present the first clear evidence for efficient collisionless electron heating at the reverse shock of Tycho's supernova remnant (SNR), revealed by Fe K diagnostics using high-quality X-ray data obtained by the Suzaku satellite. We detect Kß (3p ? 1s) fluorescence emission from low-ionization Fe ejecta excited by energetic thermal electrons at the reverse shock front, which peaks at a smaller radius than Fe Ka (2p ? 1s) emission dominated by a relatively highly ionized component. Comparisons with our hydrodynamical simulations imply instantaneous electron heating to a temperature 1000 times higher than expected from Coulomb collisions alone. The unique environment of the reverse shock, which is propagating with a high Mach number into rarefied ejecta with a low magnetic field strength, puts strong constraints on the physical mechanism responsible for this heating and favors a cross-shock potential created by charge deflection at the shock front. Our sensitive observation also reveals that the reverse shock radius of this SNR is about 10% smaller than the previous measurement using the Fe Ka morphology from the Chandra observations. Since strong Fe Kß fluorescence is expected only from low-ionization plasma where Fe ions still have many 3p electrons, this feature is key to diagnosing the plasma state and distribution of the immediate postshock ejecta in a young SNR.