Winds in Collision: high-energy particles in massive binary systems

Source: arXiv


High-resolution radio observations have revealed that non-thermal radio emission in WR stars arises where the stellar wind of the WR star collides with that of a binary companion. These colliding-wind binary (CWB) systems offer an important laboratory for investigating the underlying physics of particle acceleration. Hydrodynamic models of the binary stellar winds and the wind-collision region (WCR) that account for the evolution of the electron energy spectrum, largely due to inverse Compton cooling, are now available. Radiometry and imaging obtained with the VLA, MERLIN, EVN and VLBA provide essential constraints to these models. Models of the radio emission from WR146 and WR147 are shown, though these very wide systems do not have defined orbits and hence lack a number of important model parameters. Multi-epoch VLBI imaging of the archetype WR+O star binary WR140 through a part of its 7.9-year orbit has been used to define the orbit inclination, distance and the luminosity of the companion star to enable the best constraints for any radio emitting CWB system. Models of the spatial distribution of relativistic electrons and ions, and the magnetic energy density are used to model the radio emission, and also to predict the high energy emission at X-ray and gamma-ray energies. It is clear that high-energy facilities e.g. GLAST and VERITAS, will be important for constraining particle acceleration parameters such as the spectral index of the energy spectrum and the acceleration efficiency of both ions and electrons, and in turn, identify unique models for the radio spectra. This will be especially important in future attempts to model the spectra of WR140 throughout its complete orbit. A WCR origin for the synchrotron emission in O-stars, the progenitors of WR stars, is illustrated by observations of Cyg OB2 No. 9.

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Available from: Julian M. Pittard, Jan 22, 2013
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    ABSTRACT: Fifty observations at frequencies between 1.4 GHz and 43 GHz of the 6.6 day O6.5-7+O5.5-6 binary Cyg OB2 No. 5 using the Very Large Array over 20 years are re-examined. The aim is to determine the location and character of the previously detected variable radio emission. The radio emission from the system consists of a primary component that is associated with the binary, and a non-thermal source (NE), 08 to the NE of the binary that has been ascribed to a wind-collision region (WCR) between the stellar winds of the binary and that of a B-type star (Star D) to the NE. Previous studies have not accounted for the potential contribution of NE to the total radio emission, most especially in observations where the primary and NE sources are not resolved as separate sources. NE shows no evidence of variation in 23 epochs where it is resolved separately from the primary radio component, demonstrating that the variable emission arises in the primary component. Since NE is non-variable, the radio flux from the primary can now be well determined for the first time, most especially in observations that do not resolve both the primary and NE components. The variable radio emission from the primary component has a period of 6.7 ± 0.3 years which is described by a simple model of a non-thermal source orbiting within the stellar wind envelope of the binary. Such a model implies the presence of a third, unresolved stellar companion (Star C) orbiting the 6.6 day binary with a period of 6.7 years and independent of Star D to the NE. The variable non-thermal emission arises from either a WCR between Star C and the binary system, or possibly from Star C directly. The model gives a mass-loss rate of 3.4 × 10–5M ☉ yr–1 for Cyg OB2 No. 5, unusually high for an Of supergiant and comparable to that of WR stars, and consistent with an unusually strong He I 1.083 µm emission line, also redolent of WR stars. An examination of radial velocity observations available from the literature suggests reflex motion of the binary due to Star C, for which a mass of 23+22–14M ☉ is deduced. The natures of NE and Star D are also examined. If NE is a WCR, as suggested by other authors, then the required mass-loss rate is an order of magnitude higher than expected for an early B-type dwarf, and only just consistent with a supergiant. This raises the question of NE as a WCR, but its non-thermal luminosity is consistent with a WCR and a comparison of reddening between Cyg OB2 No. 5 and Star D do not rule out an association, implying Cyg OB2 No. 5 is a quadruple system. Pursuing alternative models for NE, such as an unassociated background source, would require very challenging observations.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2010 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Massive stars are crucial building blocks of galaxies and the universe, as production sites of heavy elements and as stirring agents and energy providers through stellar winds and supernovae. The field of magnetic massive stars has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Different perspectives -- ranging from direct field measurements over dynamo theory and stellar evolution to colliding winds and the stellar environment -- fruitfully combine into a most interesting and still evolving overall picture, which we attempt to review here. Zeeman signatures leave no doubt that at least some O- and early B-type stars have a surface magnetic field. Indirect evidence, especially non-thermal radio emission from colliding winds, suggests many more. The emerging picture for massive stars shows similarities with results from intermediate mass stars, for which much more data are available. Observations are often compatible with a dipole or low order multi-pole field of about 1 kG (O-stars) or 300 G to 30 kG (Ap / Bp stars). Weak and unordered fields have been detected in the O-star zeta-Ori A and in Vega, the first normal A-type star with a magnetic field. Theory offers essentially two explanations for the origin of the observed surface fields: fossil fields, particularly for strong and ordered fields, or different dynamo mechanisms, preferentially for less ordered fields. Numerical simulations yield the first concrete stable (fossil) field configuration, but give contradictory results as to whether dynamo action in the radiative envelope of massive main sequence stars is possible. Internal magnetic fields, which may not even show up at the stellar surface, affect stellar evolution as they lead to a more uniform rotation, with more slowly rotating cores and faster surface rotation. Surface metallicities may become enhanced, thus affecting the mass-loss rates.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2011 · Space Science Reviews
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    ABSTRACT: Context. Nonthermal radio emission in massive stars is expected to arise in wind-wind collisions occurring inside a binary system. One such case, the O-type star Cyg OB2 #9, was proven to be a binary only four years ago, but the orbital parameters remained uncertain. The periastron passage of 2011 was the first one to be observable under good conditions since the discovery of binarity. Aims: In this context, we have organized a large monitoring campaign to refine the orbital solution and to study the wind-wind collision. Methods: This paper presents the analysis of optical spectroscopic data, as well as of a dedicated X-ray monitoring performed with Swift and XMM-Newton. Results: In light of our refined orbital solution, Cyg OB2 #9 appears as a massive O+O binary with a long period and high eccentricity; its components (O5-5.5I for the primary and O3-4III for the secondary) have similar masses and similar luminosities. The new data also provide the first evidence that a wind-wind collision is present in the system. In the optical domain, the broad Hα line varies, displaying enhanced absorption and emission components at periastron. X-ray observations yield the unambiguous signature of an adiabatic collision, because as the stars approach periastron, the X-ray luminosity closely follows the 1/D variation expected in that case. The X-ray spectrum appears, however, slightly softer at periastron, which is probably related to winds colliding at slightly lower speeds at that time. Conclusions: It is the first time that such a variation has been detected in O+O systems, and the first case where the wind-wind collision is found to remain adiabatic even at periastron passage. Based on observations collected at OHP, with Swift, and with XMM-Newton.Tables 1 and 2 are available in electronic form at
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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