SN 1987A after 18 Years: Mid-Infrared Gemini and Spitzer Observations of the Remnant**Based on observations obtained at the Gemini Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc., under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the Gemini partnership: the NSF (United States), the Particle Physics and Astronomy research Council (United Kingdom), the National Research Council (Canada), CONICYT (Chile), the Australian Research Council (Australia), CNPq (Brazil), and CONICET (Argentina).
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Using the Gemini South 8 m telescope, we obtained high-resolution 11.7 and 18.3 m mid-IR images of SN 1987A on day 6526 since the explosion. All the emission arises from the equatorial ring. Nearly contemporaneous spectra obtained at 5-38 m with the Spitzer Space Telescope show that this is thermal emission from silicate dust that condensed out in the red giant wind of the progenitor star. The dust temperature is 166-12+18 K, and the emitting dust mass is 2.6-1.4+2.0 10 -6 M. Comparison of the Gemini 11.7 m image with Chandra X-ray images, HST UV-optical images, and ATCA radio synchrotron images shows generally good correlation across all wavelengths. If the dust resides in the diffuse X-ray-emitting gas then it is collisionally heated. The IR emission can then be used to derive the plasma temperature and density, which were found to be in good agreement with those inferred from the X-rays. Alternatively, the dust could reside in the dense UV-optical knots and be heated by the radiative shocks that are propagating through the knots. In either case the dust-to-gas mass ratio in the CSM around the supernova is significantly lower than that in the general interstellar medium of the LMC, suggesting either a low condensation efficiency in the wind of the progenitor star or the efficient destruction of the dust by the SN blast wave. Overall, we are witnessing the interaction of the SN blast wave with its surrounding medium, creating an environment that is rapidly evolving at all wavelengths. 2006. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.