AAS 197, January 2001
Session 6. Planetary Nebulae: Young and Old
Display, Monday, January 8, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[6.02] Chandra Detects Enigmatic Point X-ray Sources in the Cat's Eye and the Helix Nebulae

M.A. Guerrero, R.A. Gruendl, Y.-H. Chu, J.B. Kaler (UIUC), R.M. Williams (NASA/GSFC)

Central stars of planetary nebulae (PNe) with Teff greater than 100,000~K are expected to emit soft X-rays that peak below 0.1 keV. Chandra ACIS-S observations of the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC~6543) and the Helix Nebula (NGC~7293) have detected point X-ray sources at their central stars. The point X-ray source at the central star of the Cat's Eye is both unknown previously and unexpected because the stellar temperature is only ~50,000 K. In contrast, the point X-ray source at the central star of the Helix was previously detected by ROSAT and its soft X-ray emission is expected because the stellar temperature is ~100,000 K. However, the Helix X-ray source also shows a harder X-ray component peaking at 0.8 keV that is unexpected and for which Chandra has provided the first high-resolution spectrum for detailed analysis.

The spectra of the point X-ray sources in the Cat's Eye and the Helix show line features indicating an origin of thermal plasma emission. The spectrum of the Helix source can be fit by Raymond & Smith's model of plasma emission at ~\times106 K. The spectrum of the Cat's Eye source has too few counts for a spectral fit, but appears to be consistent with plasma emission at 2-3\times106 K. The X-ray luminosities of both sources are ~\times1029 erg~s-1.

The observed plasma temperatures are too high for accretion disks around white dwarfs, but they could be ascribed to coronal X-ray emission. While central stars of PNe are not known to have coronae, the observed spectra are consistent with quiescent X-ray emission from dM flare stars. On the other hand, neither the central star of the Helix or the Cat's Eye are known to have a binary companion. It is possible that the X-rays from the Cat's Eye's central star originate from shocks in the stellar wind, but the central star of the Helix does not have a measurable fast stellar wind.

This work is supported by the CXC grant number GO0-1004X.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: mar@astro.uiuc.edu

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