Feedback by massive stars and the emergence of superbubbles. II. X-ray properties

M. Krause, R. Diehl, H. Böhringer, M. Freyberg, D. Lubos

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Context. In a previous paper we investigated the energy transfer of massive stars to the interstellar medium (ISM) as a function of time and the geometrical configuration of three massive stars via 3D-mesh-refining hydrodynamics simulations, following the complete evolution of the massive stars and their supernovaewith the exception of non-thermal processes.
Aims. To compare our results against observations we derivethermalX-ray properties of the ISM from our simulations and compare them to observations of superbubbles in general, to the well-studied nearby Orion-Eridanus superbubble and to the diffuse soft X-ray emission of nearby galaxies.
Methods. We analysed our ISM simulation results with the help of spectra for plasma temperatures between 0.1 and 10 keV and computed the spectral evolution and the spatio-temporal distribution of the hot gas.
Results. Despite significant input of high-temperature gas from supernovae and fast stellar winds, the resultingthermalX-ray spectra are generally very soft, with most of the emission well below 1 keV. We show that this is due to mixing triggered by resolved hydrodynamic instabilities. Supernovae enhance the X-ray luminosity of a superbubble by 1–2 orders of magnitude for a time span of about 0.1 Myr; which is longer if a supernova occurs in a larger superbubble and shorter in higher energy bands. Peak superbubble luminosities of the order of 1036 erg s-1 are reproduced well. The strong decay of the X-ray luminosity is due to bubble expansion, hydrodynamic instabilities related to the acceleration of the superbubble’s shell thanks to the sudden energy input, and subsequent mixing. We also find global oscillations of our simulated superbubbles, which produce spatial variations of the X-ray spectrum, similar to what we see in the Orion-Eridanus cavity. We calculated the fraction of energy emitted in X-rays and find that with a value of a few times 10-4, it is about a factor of ten below the measurements for nearby galaxies.
Conclusions. Our models explain the observed soft spectra and peak X-ray luminosities of individual superbubbles. Each supernova event inside a superbubble produces a fairly similar heating-entrainment-cooling sequence, and the energy content of superbubbles is always determined by a specific fraction of the energy released by one supernova. For a given superbubble, soft X-rays trace the internal energy content well with moderate scatter. Some mechanism seems to delay the energy loss in real superbubbles compared to our simulations. Alternatively, some mechanism other thanthermal emission ofsuperbubbles may contribute to the soft X-ray luminosity of star-forming galaxies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA94
Number of pages13
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2014


  • ISM: bubbles, ISM: structure, galaxies: ISM, hydrodynamics, instabilities, X-rays: ISM


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