X-ray diagnostics of massive star winds

Lidia Oskinova

Nearly all types of massive stars with radiatively driven stellar winds are X-ray sources that can be observed by the presently operating powerful X-ray telescopes. In this review I briefly address recent advances in our understanding of stellar winds obtained from X-ray observations. The winds of OB dwarfs with subtypes later than O9V may be predominantly in a hot phase, and X-ray observations offer the best window for their studies. The X-ray properties of OB supergiants are largely determined by the effects of radiative transfer in their clumped stellar winds. The recently suggested method to directly measure mass-loss rates of O stars by fitting the shapes of X-ray emission lines is considered but its validity cannot be confirmed. To obtain robust quantitative information on stellar wind parameters from X-ray spectroscopy, a multiwavelength analysis by means of stellar atmosphere models is required. Independent groups are now performing such analyses with encouraging results. Joint analyses of optical, UV, and X-ray spectra of OB supergiants yield consistent mass-loss rates. Depending on the adopted clumping parameters, the empirically derived mass-loss rates are comparable (within a factor of a few) to those predicted by standard recipes (Vink et al. 2001). All sufficiently studied O stars display variable X-ray emission that might be related to corotating interaction regions in their winds. In the latest stages of stellar evolution, single red supergiants and luminous blue variable stars do not emit observable amounts of X-rays. On the other hand, nearly all types of Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars are X-ray sources. X-ray spectroscopy allows a sensitive probe of WR wind abundances and opacities.

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