A viscous heating mechanism for the hot plasma in the Galactic center region
CEA Service d'Astrophysique, UMR “AstroParticules et Cosmologie”, Orme de merisiers, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 14 March 2006
In addition to lines originating in a soft phase at ~0.8 keV and to cold molecular clouds, the X-ray spectra from the Galactic center region also exhibit properties similar to those of a diffuse, thin, very hot plasma at 8 keV on a scale of hundreds of parsecs. This phase is surprising for more than one reason. First, such a hot plasma should not be bound to the Galactic plane and the power needed to sustain the escaping matter would be higher then any known source. Second, there is no known mechanism able to heat the plasma to more than a few keV. Recently we have suggested that, hydrogen having escaped, the hot plasma could be a helium plasma, heavy enough to be gravitationally confined. In this case, the required power is much more reasonable. We present here a possible heating mechanism which taps the gravitational energy of the molecular clouds. We note that the 8 keV plasma is highly viscous and we show how viscous friction of molecular clouds flowing within the hot phase can dissipate energy in the gas and heat it. We detail the MHD wake of a spherical cloud by considering the different MHD waves the cloud can excite. We find that most of the energy is dissipated by the damping of Alfvénic perturbations in two possible manners, namely by non-linear effects and by a large scale curvature of the field lines. We find that the total dissipation rate depends on the field strength. For fields G both mechanisms produce power comparable to or higher than the radiative losses; for strong fields mG, only the curvature damping can balance the X-ray emission and requires a radius of curvature pc; whereas for intermediate fields, the total dissipation is more than one order of magnitude smaller, requiring a higher accretion rate. We note that the plasma parameters may be optimal to make the dissipation most efficient, suggesting a self-regulation mechanism. The loss of kinetic and gravitational energy also causes accretion of the clouds and may have significant action on the gas dynamics in this region between the large scale, bar dominated flow and the central accretion to the massive black hole.
Key words: Galaxy: center / X-rays: ISM / ISM: clouds / ISM: magnetic fields / plasmas / ISM: kinematics and dynamics
© ESO, 2006