A Clumping Independent Diagnostic of Stellar Mass-loss Rates: Rapid Clump Destruction in Adiabatic Colliding Winds

J. M. Pittard

School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Clumping in hot star winds can significantly affect estimates of mass-loss rates, the inferred evolution of the star and the environmental impact of the wind. A hydrodynamical simulation of a colliding winds binary (CWB) with clumpy winds reveals that the clumps are rapidly destroyed after passing through the confining shocks of the wind-wind collision region (WCR) for reasonable parameters of the clumps if the flow in the WCR is adiabatic. Despite large density and temperature fluctuations in the post-shock gas, the overall effect of the interaction is to smooth the existing structure in the winds. Averaged over the entire interaction region, the resulting X-ray emission is very similar to that from the collision of smooth winds. The insensitivity of the X-ray emission to clumping suggests it is an excellent diagnostic of the stellar mass-loss rates in wide CWBs, and may prove to be a useful addition to existing techniques for deriving mass-loss rates, many of which are extremely sensitive to clumping. Clumpy winds also have implications for a variety of phenomena at the WCR: particle acceleration may occur throughout the WCR due to supersonic MHD turbulence, re-acceleration at multiple shocks, and re-connection; a statistical description of the properties of the WCR may be required for studies of non-equilibrium ionization and the rate of electron heating; and the physical mixing of the two winds will be enhanced, as seems necessary to trigger dust formation.

Reference: Accepted by ApJL
Status: Manuscript has been accepted

Weblink: astro-ph/0703617


Email: jmp@ast.leeds.ac.uk