Very high energy gamma-ray emission from Tycho's supernova remnant

Saxon, Dana Boltuch
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University of Delaware
Supernova remnant (SNR) G120.1+1.4 (also known as Tycho's SNR) is the remnant of one of only five confirmed historical supernovae. As such, it has been well studied across the electromagnetic spectrum. This thesis describes the first statistically significant detection of very high energy (VHE) (∼ 100 GeV to 100 TeV) gamma rays from Tycho's SNR, reported in 2011 by the VERITAS collaboration. The analysis that led to that detection was performed by this author, and this dissertation will discuss the process in detail. Subsequently, a statistically significant detection in high energy (HE) (∼ 30 MeV to 100 GeV) gamma rays was reported by other authors using data from the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. Comparison of models to the spectral energy distribution of the photon flux from this remnant in HE and VHE gamma rays favors a hadronic origin for the emission, particularly when combined with current X-ray data, although a leptonic origin cannot be ruled out at this time. This is significant because a confirmed hadronic origin for the gamma-ray emission would identify this SNR as a site of cosmic ray acceleration, providing observational evidence for the idea that SNRs are the source of the Galactic cosmic ray population. Chapter 1 of this dissertation will provide historical background on Tycho's SNR, along with a summary of modern observations of the remnant across the electromagnetic spectrum. Chapter 2 is a discussion of the role played by SNRs in the process of cosmic ray acceleration, including both theoretical underpinnings and observational evidence. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the field of VHE gamma-ray astronomy, with discussions of gamma-ray production mechanisms and gamma-ray source classes. Chapter 4 describes the instruments used to observe HE and VHE gamma rays. Chapter 5 is a discussion of general analysis methods and techniques for data from Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes (IACTs). Chapter 6 provides details about the specific analysis I completed on VERITAS data on Tycho's SNR. Lastly, Chapter 7 discusses the modeling and interpretation of the VHE Tycho detection in the context of current multiwavelength observational results.