EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 508, Number 2, December III 2009
Page(s) 779 - 782
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200913028
Published online 27 October 2009
A&A 508, 779-782 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200913028

Research Note

HST observations of the nebula around the central compact object in the Vela Jr. supernova remnant

R. P. Mignani1, A. De Luca2, 3, and A. Pellizzoni4

1  Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6NT, UK
    e-mail: rm2@mssl.ucl.ac.uk
2  Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori Viale Lungo Ticino Sforza 56, Pavia 27100, Italy
3  INAF, Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale, via Bassini 15, Milan 20133, Italy
    e-mail: deluca@iasf-milano.inaf.it
4  INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Cagliari, Localitá Poggio dei Pini, Strada 54, Capoterra, Cagliari 09012, Italy
    e-mail: apellizz@oa-cagliari.inaf.it

Received 30 July 2009 / Accepted 13 October 2009

Context. A handful of young (a few thousand years) supernova remnants (SNRs) host point-like X-ray sources, dubbed central compact objects (CCOs), which are thought to be radio-silent isolated neutron stars formed by the supernova explosion. So far, no CCO has been firmly detected at other wavelengths. However, ground-based observation in the H$_{\alpha}$ band detected a nebula around CXO J085201.4-461753, the CCO in the Vela Jr. SNR. The nebula has also been detected in deep R-band observations performed with the Very Large Telescope (VLT). Interestingly, both its extension and its flux in the R band are consistent with those measured in H$_{\alpha}$, suggesting that the nebula spectrum is dominated by line emission, possibly produced by a velocity-driven bow-shock in the interstellar medium (ISM) or by its photo-ionisation from the neutron star.
Aims. The aim of this work is to resolve the morphology of the H$_{\alpha}$ nebula around the CCO to verify the proposed interpretations.
Methods. We performed high-resolution imaging observations of the nebula with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) through the 656N filter, 
almost exactly centred on the rest wavelength of the H$_{\alpha}$ line.
Results. Surprisingly enough, we did not detect the nebula in our WFPC2 image down to a $3 \sigma$ flux limit of ~3 $\times$ 10-15 erg cm-2 s-1. This limit is a factor of 10 fainter than the nebula flux measured in the discovery ground-based observations which were, however, performed with redder and broader H$_{\alpha}$ filters.
Conclusions. The non-detection of the nebula in the narrower and bluer WFPC2 656N filter suggests that the peak of the emission might actually be at longer wavelengths. One possibility, compatible with the bow-shock scenario only, is that the H$_{\alpha}$  line is red-shifted by ~10-60 Å due to the neutron star motion with a radial velocity 450 $\la$ Vr $\la$ 2700 km s-1. The other possibility is that the nebula is a knot of [NII] emission ($\lambda$ = 6583.6 Å) unrelated to CXO J085201.4-461753 and possibly associated with the nearby star Wray 16-30. High-resolution spectroscopy observations will help to settle the nature of the nebula.

Key words: stars: neutron -- ISM: supernova remnants -- ISM: clouds

© ESO 2009