Bulk Velocities, Chemical Composition, and Ionization Structure of the X-Ray Shocks in WR 140 near Periastron as Revealed by the Chandra Gratings
The Wolf-Rayet WC7+O4-5 binary WR 140 went through the periastron passage of its 8 yr eccentric binary orbit in early 2001 as the two stars made their closest approach. Both stars have powerful supersonic stellar winds that crash into each other between the stars to produce X-rays. Chandra grating observations were made when the X-rays were at their peak, making WR 140 the brightest hot-star X-ray source in the sky and giving the opportunity to study the velocity profiles of lines, all of which were resolved and blueshifted before periastron. In the general context of shock physics, the measurements constrain the flow of hot gas and where different ions were made. The brightness of lines relative to the strong continuum in conjunction with plasma models gives interim abundance estimates for eight different elements in WC-type material including an Ne/S ratio in good agreement with earlier long-wavelength measurements. The lower velocity widths of cool ions imply a plasma that was not in equilibrium, probably due to the collisionless nature of the shock transitions and the slow character of both the postshock energy exchange between ions and electrons and subsequent ionization. Electron heat conduction into fast-moving preshock gas was absent, probably suppressed by the magnetic field involved in WR 140's synchrotron emission. After periastron, the spectrum was weaker due mainly to absorption by cool Wolf-Rayet star material.