Journal Article

3D models of radiatively driven colliding winds in massive O + O star binaries – III. Thermal X-ray emission

J. M. Pittard and E. R. Parkin

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 403, issue 4, pages 1657-1683
Published in print April 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
3D models of radiatively driven colliding winds in massive O + O star binaries – III. Thermal X-ray emission

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The X-ray emission from the wind–wind collision in short-period massive O + O star binaries is investigated. The emission is calculated from 3D hydrodynamical models which incorporate gravity, the driving of the winds, orbital motion of the stars and radiative cooling of the shocked plasma. Changes in the amount of stellar occultation and circumstellar attenuation introduce phase-dependent X-ray variability in systems with circular orbits, while strong variations in the intrinsic emission also occur in systems with eccentric orbits. The X-ray emission in eccentric systems can display strong hysteresis, with the emission softer after periastron than at corresponding orbital phases prior to periastron, reflecting the physical state of the shocked plasma at these times.

Our simulated X-ray light curves bear many similarities to observed light curves. In systems with circular orbits the light curves show two minima per orbit, which are identical (although not symmetric) if the winds are identical. The maxima in the light curves are produced near quadrature, with a phase delay introduced due to the aberration and curvature of the wind collision region. Circular systems with unequal winds produce minima of different depths and duration. In systems with eccentric orbits the maxima in the light curves may show a very sharp peak (depending on the orientation of the observer), followed by a precipitous drop due to absorption and/or cooling. We show that the rise to maximum does not necessarily follow a 1/dsep law. Our models further demonstrate that the effective circumstellar column can be highly energy dependent. Therefore, spectral fits which assume energy-independent column(s) are overly simplified and may compromise the interpretation of observed data.

To better understand observational analyses of such systems we apply Chandra and Suzaku response files, plus Poisson noise, to the spectra calculated from our simulations and fit these using standard xspec models. We find that the recovered temperatures from two- or three-temperature mekal fits are comparable to those from fits to the emission from real systems with similar stellar and orbital parameters/nature. We also find that when the global abundance is thawed in the spectral fits, subsolar values are exclusively returned, despite the calculations using solar values as input. This highlights the problem of fitting oversimplified models to data, and of course is of wider significance than just the work presented here.

Further insight into the nature of the stellar winds and the wind–wind collision region in particular systems will require dedicated hydrodynamical modelling, the results of which will follow in due course.

Keywords: shock waves; binaries: general; stars: early-type; stars: mass-loss; winds, outflows; X-rays: stars

Journal Article.  20715 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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