Detonative propagation and accelerative expansion of the Crab Nebula shock front

Yang Gao, Chung K. Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The accelerative expansion of the Crab Nebula's outer envelope is a mystery in dynamics, as a conventional expanding blast wave decelerates when bumping into the surrounding interstellar medium. Here we show that the strong relativistic pulsar wind bumping into its surrounding nebula induces energy-generating processes and initiates a detonation wave that propagates outward to form the current outer edge, namely, the shock front, of the nebula. The resulting detonation wave, with a reactive downstream, then provides the needed power to maintain propagation of the shock front. Furthermore, relaxation of the curvature-induced reduction of the propagation velocity from the initial state of formation to the asymptotic, planar state of Chapman-Jouguet propagation explains the observed accelerative expansion. Potential richness in incorporating reactive fronts in the description of various astronomical phenomena is expected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number171102
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number17
StatePublished - Oct 18 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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