Chandra revisits WR 48a: testing colliding wind models in massive binaries

Svetozar A. Zhekov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Marc Gagné, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Stephen L. Skinner, University of Colorado, Boulder

Version from ArXiv repository.


We present results of new Chandra High-Energy Transmission Grating (HETG) observations (2019 November-December) of the massive Wolf-Rayet binary WR 48a. Analysis of these high-quality data showed that the spectral lines in this massive binary are broadened (full width at half-maximum, FWHM = 1400 km s(-1)) and marginally blueshifted (similar to-100 km s(-1)). A direct modelling of these high-resolution spectra in the framework of the standard colliding stellar wind (CSW) picture provided a very good correspondence between the shape of the theoretical and observed spectra. Also, the theoretical line profiles are in most cases an acceptable representation of the observed ones. We applied the CSW model to the X-ray spectra of WR 48a from previous observations: Chandra-HETG (2012 October) and XMM-Newton (2008 January). From this expanded analysis, we find that the observed X-ray emission from WR 48a is variable on the long time-scale (years) and the same is valid for its intrinsic X-ray emission. This requires variable mass-loss rates over the binary orbital period. The X-ray absorption (in excess of that from the stellar winds in the binary) is variable as well. We note that lower intrinsic X-ray emission is accompanied by higher X-ray absorption. A qualitative explanation could be that the presence of clumpy and non-spherically symmetric stellar winds may play a role.