XMM-Newton Observations Reveal Very High X-ray Luminosity from the Carbon-rich Wolf-Rayet Star WR 48a

Svetozar A. Zhekov (1), Marc Gagne (2), Stephen L. Skinner (3)

(1) - JILA, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA; (2) - Department of Geology and Astronomy, West Chester University, USA; (3) - CASA, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

We present XMM-Newton observations of the dusty Wolf-Rayet star WR 48a. This is the first detection of this object in X-rays. The XMM-Newton EPIC spectra are heavily absorbed and the presence of numerous strong emission lines indicates a thermal origin of the WR 48a X-ray emission, with dominant temperature components at kT_cool approx. 1 keV and kT_hot approx. 3~keV, the hotter component dominating the observed flux. No significant X-ray variability was detected on time scales < 1 day. Although the distance to WR 48a is uncertain, if it is physically associated with the open clusters Danks 1 and 2 at d ~ 4 kpc, then the resultant X-ray luminosity L_X ~ 10^(35) ergs/s makes it the most X-ray luminous Wolf-Rayet star in the Galaxy detected so far, after the black-hole candidate Cyg X-3. We assume the following scenarios as the most likely explanation for the X-ray properties of WR 48a: (1) colliding stellar winds in a wide WR+O binary system, or in a hierarchical triple system with non-degenerate stellar components; (2) accretion shocks from the WR 48a wind onto a close companion (possibly a neutron star). More specific information about WR48a and its wind properties will be needed to distinguish between the above possibilities.

Reference: The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Status: Manuscript has been accepted

Weblink: http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/1012.2211


Email: zhekovs@colorado.edu