X-raying clumped stellar winds

L.M. Oskinova, W.-R. Hamann & A. Feldmeier

Universität Potsdam, Institut für Physik, Astrophysik

X-ray spectroscopy is a sensitive probe of stellar winds. X-rays originate from optically thin shock-heated plasma deep inside the wind and propagate outwards throughout absorbing cool material. Recent analyses of the line ratios from He-like ions in the X-ray spectra of O-stars highlighted problems with this general paradigm: the measured line ratios of highest ions are consistent with the location of the hottest X-ray emitting plasma very close to the base of the wind, perhaps indicating the presence of a corona, while measurements from lower ions conform with the wind-embedded shock model. Generally, to correctly model the emerging X-ray spectra, a detailed knowledge of the cool wind opacities based on stellar atmosphere models is prerequisite. A nearly grey stellar wind opacity for the X-rays is deduced from the analyses of high-resolution X-ray spectra. This indicates that the stellar winds are strongly clumped. Furthermore, the nearly symmetric shape of X-ray emission line profiles can be explained if the wind clumps are radially compressed. In massive binaries the orbital variations of X-ray emission allow to probe the opacity of the stellar wind; results support the picture of strong wind clumping. In high-mass X-ray binaries, the stochastic X-ray variability and the extend of the stellar-wind part photoionized by X-rays provide further strong evidence that stellar winds consist of dense clumps.

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