Fesen, Robert A., Weil, Kathryn E., Cisneros, Ignacio A., Blair, William P., and Raymond, John C. 2018. "The Cygnus Loop's distance, properties, and environment driven morphology." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 481:1786-1798. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/sty2370
The Cygnus Loop is among the brightest and best studied evolved Galactic supernova remnants. However, its distance has remained uncertain thus undermining quantitative understanding about many of its fundamental properties. Here we present moderate-dispersion spectra of three stars with projected locations toward the remnant. Spectra of these stars revealed Na I 5890,5896 Å and Ca II 3934 Å absorption features associated with the remnant's expanding shell, with velocities ranging from -160 to 240 km s-1. Combining Gaia DR2 parallax measurements for these stars with other recent observations, we find the distance to the Cygnus Loop's centre is 735 ± 25 pc, only a bit less than the 770 pc value proposed by Minkowski some 60 yr ago. Using this new distance, we discuss the remnant's physical properties including size, SN explosion energy, and shock velocities. We also present multiwavelength emission maps which reveal that, instead of being located in a progenitor wind-driven cavity as has long been assumed, the Cygnus Loop lies in an extended, low-density region. Rather than wind-driven cavity walls, these images reveal in unprecedented clarity the sizes and locations of local interstellar clouds with which the remnant is interacting, giving rise to its large-scale morphology.