High-resolution X-ray spectroscopy reveals the special nature of Wolf-Rayet star winds

Oskinova, L.M.; Gayley, K.G.; Hamann, W.-R.; Huenemoerder, D.P.; Ignace, R.; Pollock, A.M.T.

We present the first high-resolution X-ray spectrum of a putatively single Wolf-Rayet star. 400 ks observations of WR6 by the XMM-Newton-telescope resulted in a superb quality high-resolution X-ray spectrum. Spectral analysis reveals that the X-rays originate far out in the stellar wind, more than 30 stellar radii from the photosphere, and thus outside the wind acceleration zone where the line-driving instability could create shocks. The X-ray emitting plasma reaches temperatures up to 50MK, and is embedded within the un-shocked, "cool" stellar wind as revealed by characteristic spectral signatures. We detect a fluorescent Fe line at ~6.4 keV. The presence of fluorescence is consistent with a two-component medium, where the cool wind is permeated with the hot X-ray emitting plasma. The wind must have a very porous structure to allow the observed amount of X-rays to escape. We find that neither the line-driving instability nor any alternative binary scenario can explain the data. We suggest a scenario where X-rays are produced when the fast wind rams into slow "sticky clumps" that resist acceleration. Our new data show that the X-rays in single WR-star are generated by some special mechanism different from the one operating in the O-star winds.

Pdf-File (wr6-apjl.pdf, 423kB)

ERRATUM (wr6-apjl-erratum.pdf, 64kB)

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