Gamma-ray follow-up studies on η Carinae
1 Institut für Astro- und Teilchenphysik and Institut für Theoretische Physik, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
2 Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Department of Physics and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
3 Hiroshima Astrophysical Science Center, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, 739-8526 Hiroshima, Japan
Received: 20 March 2012
Accepted: 30 June 2012
Aims. Observations of high-energy γ-rays recently revealed a persistent source in spatial coincidence with the binary system η Carinae. Since modulation of the observed γ-ray flux on orbital time scales has not been reported so far, an unambiguous identification was hitherto not possible. Particularly the observations made by the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) posed additional questions regarding the actual emission scenario. Analyses show two energetically distinct components in the γ-ray spectrum, which are best described by an exponentially cutoff power-law function (CPL) at energies below 10 GeV and a power-law (PL) component dominant at higher energies.
Methods. The increased exposure in conjunction with the improved instrumental response functions of the LAT now allow us to perform a more detailed investigation of location, spectral shape, and flux time history of the observed γ-ray emission.
Results. We detect a weak but regular flux decrease over time. This can be understood and interpreted in a colliding-wind binary scenario for orbital modulation of the γ-ray emission. We find that the spectral shape of the γ-ray signal agrees with a single emitting particle population in combination with significant absorption by γ-γ pair production.
Conclusions. We are able to report on the first unambiguous detection of GeV γ-ray emission from a colliding-wind massive star binary. Studying the correlation of the flux decrease with the orbital separation of the binary components allows us to predict the behaviour up to the next periastron passage in 2014.
Key words: gamma rays: stars / stars: massive / binaries: general
© ESO, 2012