Discovery of X-ray Emission from the Wolf-Rayet star WR142 of oxygen subtype

L.M. Oskinova, W.-R. Hamann, A. Feldmeier, R. Ignace, Y.-H. Chu

Institut für Physik und Astronomie, Universität Potsdam, Germany

We report the discovery of weak yet hard X-ray emission from the Wolf-Rayet (WR) star WR 142 with the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope. Being of spectral subtype WO2, WR 142 is a massive star in a very advanced evolutionary stage shortly before its explosion as a supernova or γ-ray burst. This is the first detection of X-ray emission from a WO-type star. We rule out any serendipitous X-ray sources within approximately 1'' of WR 142. WR 142 has an X-ray luminosity of L approximately 7 × 1030 erg/s, which constitutes only less than about 10–8 of its bolometric luminosity. The hard X-ray spectrum suggests a plasma temperature of about 100 MK. Commonly, X-ray emission from stellar winds is attributed to embedded shocks due to the intrinsic instability of the radiation driving. From qualitative considerations we conclude that this mechanism cannot account for the hardness of the observed radiation. There are no hints for a binary companion. Therefore the only remaining, albeit speculative explanation must refer to magnetic activity. Possibly related, WR 142 seems to rotate extremely fast, as indicated by the unusually round profiles of its optical emission lines. Our detection implies that the wind of WR 142 must be relatively transparent to X-rays, which can be due to strong wind ionization, wind clumping, or nonspherical geometry from rapid rotation.

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