Letter to the Editor
The discovery of an expanding X-ray source in the HH 154 protostellar jet
Astrophysics Missions Division, Research and Scientific Support Department of ESA/ESTEC, Postbus 299, 2200 AG Noordwijk, The Netherlands
2 INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo, Piazza del Parlamento 1, 90134 Palermo, Italy
3 Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche ed Astronomiche, Sez. Astronomia, Università di Palermo, Piazza del Parlamento 1, 90134 Palermo, Italy
Accepted: 8 March 2006
Context.Protostellar jets are a new class of X-ray sources which has been discovered with both XMM-Newton and Chandra. The mechanism responsible for the X-ray emission is still not clear. Self-shocking in jets, shocks where the jet hits the surrounding medium, reflected or scattered stellar X-ray emission have all been invoked as possible explanations.Aims.One key diagnostic discriminating among physical emission mechanisms is the motion of the X-ray source: hydrodynamical numerical models of continuous protostellar jets plowing through a uniform medium show an X-ray emitting shock front moving at several hundreds km s-1. In the nearest X-ray emitting protostellar jet, HH 154, this is detectable, with the spatial resolution of the Chandra X-ray observatory, over a few years baseline, allowing a robust discrimination among different mechanisms. Methods.We have performed, in October 2005, a deep Chandra X-ray observation of HH 154. Comparison with the previous (2001) Chandra observation allows to detect proper motion down to the level predicted by models of X-ray emitting shocks in the jet.Results.The 2005 Chandra observation of HH 154 shows unexpected morphological changes of the X-ray emission in comparison with the 2001 data. Two components are present: a stronger, point-like component with no detectable motion and a weaker component which has expanded in size by approximately 300 AU over the 4 years time base of the two observations. This expansion corresponds to approximately 500 km s-1, very close to the velocity of the X-ray emitting shock in the simple theoretical models.Conclusions.The 2005 data show a more complex system than initially thought (and modeled), with multiple components with different properties. The observed morphology is possibly indicating a pulsed jet propagating through a non-homogeneous medium, likely with medium density decreasing with distance from the driving source. Detailed theoretical modeling and deeper X-ray observations will be needed to understand the physics of this fascinating class of sources.
© ESO, 2006