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The Expansion of the X-ray Nebula Around Eta Carinae

Presentation #116.01 in the session Stellar/Compact Objects.

Published onJul 01, 2023
The Expansion of the X-ray Nebula Around Eta Carinae

The massive colliding wind binary system EC is embedded in an X-ray emitting region having a characteristic temperature of a few million degrees, associated with ejecta produced during the 1840's, and in earlier outbursts. We use Chandra X-ray imaging observations obtained over the past two decades to directly measure the expansion of the X-ray nebula for the first time. A combined Chandra ACIS image shows a faint, nearly uniform elliptic structure. This faint elliptical “shell” has a similar orientation and shape as the Homunculus nebula \textbf{but is} about 3 times larger. We measure proper motions of brighter regions associated with the X-ray emitting ring. We compare spectra of the soft X-ray emitting plasma in Chandra ACIS and XMM PN observations and show that the PN observations indicate a decline in X-ray flux which is comparable to that derived from NICER observations. We associate the diffuse elliptical emission surrounding the bright X-ray “ring” with the blast wave produced during the Great Eruption. We suggest that the interaction of this blast wave with pre-existing clumps of ejecta produces the bright, broken X-ray emitting ring. We extrapolate the trend in X-ray energy back to the time of the Great Eruption using a simple model and show that the X-ray energy was comparable to the kinetic energy of the Homunculus, suggesting equipartition of energy between fast, low density ejecta and slower, dense ejecta.

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