Letter to the Editor
Discovery of X-ray flaring activity in the Arches cluster⋆
Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik,
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
3 Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg, Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, UMR 7550, 11 rue de l’Université, 67000 Strasbourg, France
4 Hamburger Sternwarte, Universität Hamburg, Gojenbergsweg 112, 21029 Hamburg, Germany
Received: 15 September 2010
Accepted: 16 November 2010
Context. We present a study of the Arches cluster based on XMM-Newton observations performed over the past 8 years. Unexpectedly, we find that the X-ray emission associated with the cluster experienced a marked brightening in March/April 2007.
Aims. We investigate the origin of both the X-ray continuum emission emanating from the star cluster and the flare.
Methods. To study the time variability of the total X-ray flux, we stacked the PN and MOS data of observations performed within a time interval of a few days leading to the detection of the flaring episode. We then constructed two spectral datasets, one corresponding to the flare interval (March/April 2007) and another to the normal quiescent state of the source.
Results. The X-ray light curve of the Arches cluster shows, with high significance (8.6σ), a 70% increase in the X-ray emission in the March/April 2007 timeframe followed by a decline over the following year to the pre-flare level; the short-term duration of the flare is constrained to be longer than four days. The temperature and the line-of-sight column density inferred from the flare spectrum do not differ from those measured in the normal activity state of the cluster, suggesting that the flux enhancement is thermal in origin.
Conclusions. We attribute the X-ray variability to in situ stellar activity: early-type stars may be responsible for the flare via wind collisions, whereas late-type stars may contribute by means of magnetic reconnection. These two possibilities are discussed.
Key words: stars: flare / galaxy: center / X-rays: stars
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© ESO, 2010