JWST NIRCam Observations of SN 1987A: Spitzer Comparison and Spectral Decomposition

Richard G. Arendt, Martha L. Boyer, Eli Dwek, Mikako Matsuura, Aravind P. Ravi, Armin Rest, Roger Chevalier, Phil Cigan, Ilse De Looze, Guido De Marchi, Claes Fransson, Christa Gall, R. D. Gehrz, Haley L. Gomez, Tuomas Kangas, Florian Kirchschlager, Robert P. Kirshner, Josefin Larsson, Peter Lundqvist, Dan MilisavljevicSangwook Park, Nathan Smith, Jason Spyromilio, Tea Temim, Lifan Wang, J. Craig Wheeler, Charles E. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


JWST Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) observations at 1.5-4.5 μm have provided broadband and narrowband imaging of the evolving remnant of SN 1987A with unparalleled sensitivity and spatial resolution. Comparing with previous marginally spatially resolved Spitzer Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) observations from 2004 to 2019 confirms that the emission arises from the circumstellar equatorial ring (ER), and the current brightness at 3.6 and 4.5 μm was accurately predicted by extrapolation of the declining brightness tracked by IRAC. Despite the regular light curve, the NIRCam observations clearly reveal that much of this emission is from a newly developing outer portion of the ER. Spots in the outer ER tend to lie at position angles in between the well-known ER hotspots. We show that the bulk of the emission in the field can be represented by five standard spectral energy distributions, each with a distinct origin and spatial distribution. This spectral decomposition provides a powerful technique for distinguishing overlapping emission from the circumstellar medium and the supernova ejecta, excited by the forward and reverse shocks, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number95
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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