Modelling accretion disc and stellar wind interactions: the case of Sgr A*


Christie IM, Petropoulou M, Mimica P, Giannios D. Modelling accretion disc and stellar wind interactions: the case of Sgr A*. [Internet]. 2016;459:2420 - 2431.


Sgr A* is an ideal target to study low-luminosity accreting systems. It has been recently proposed that properties of the accretion flow around Sgr A* can be probed through its interactions with the stellar wind of nearby massive stars belonging to the S-cluster. When a star intercepts the accretion disc, the ram and thermal pressures of the disc terminate the stellar wind leading to the formation of a bow shock structure. Here, a semi-analytical model is constructed which describes the geometry of the termination shock formed in the wind. With the employment of numerical hydrodynamic simulations, this model is both verified and extended to a region prone to Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities. Because the characteristic wind and stellar velocities are in ∼108 cm s-1 range, the shocked wind may produce detectable X-rays via thermal bremsstrahlung emission. The application of this model to the pericentre passage of S2, the brightest member of the S-cluster, shows that the shocked wind produces roughly a month long X-ray flare with a peak luminosity of L ≈ 4 × 1033 erg s-1 for a stellar mass-loss rate, disc number density, and thermal pressure strength of dot{M}_w= 10^{-7} M_{☉} yr^{-1}, nd = 105 cm-3, and α = 0.1, respectively. This peak luminosity is comparable to the quiescent X-ray emission detected from Sgr A* and is within the detection capabilities of current X-ray observatories. Its detection could constrain the density and thickness of the disc at a distance of ∼3000 gravitational radii from the supermassive black hole.