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X-Ray Emission from the Hot Interstellar Medium and Southwest Radio Lobe of the Nearby Radio Galaxy Centaurus A

X-Ray Emission from the Hot Interstellar Medium and Southwest Radio Lobe of the Nearby Radio Galaxy Centaurus A

Publication date: 21 July 2003

Authors: Kraft, R.P., et al.

Journal: ApJ
Volume: 592
Issue: 1
Page: 129
Year: 2003

Copyright: IOP Publishing

We present results from two Chandra/ACIS-I observations and one XMM-Newton observation of X-ray emission from the interstellar medium (ISM) and the inner radio lobes of the nearby radio galaxy Centaurus A. The ISM has an average radial surface brightness profile that is well described by a beta-model profile with index beta = 0.40 ± 0.04 and a temperature of kBTISM ~ 0.29 keV beyond 2 kpc from the nucleus. We find that diffuse X-ray emission is coincident with the outer half of the southwest radio lobe, and a bright X-ray enhancement is detected along the edge of the lobe. On the basis of energetic and lifetime arguments, we reject a nonthermal explanation for this emission. We model this emission as a thin, hot shell or cap of X-ray-emitting plasma surrounding the radio lobe that was created by the supersonic inflation of the lobe. This plasma shell is both hotter than (kBTSH ~ 2.9 keV) and greatly overpressurized relative to the ambient ISM, indicating supersonic expansion. We estimate that the lobe is expanding into the ISM at approximately Mach 8.5, or 2400 km s-1. We are not directly observing the bow shock, but rather the cooler, denser material that is accumulating ahead of the contact discontinuity. The thermal energy in the shell is a significant fraction of the thermal energy of the hot ISM, demonstrating the possibility that the hot ISM of early galaxies can be reenergized by outflows from nuclear activity. Interestingly, no similarly bright X-ray emission is detected in or along the edge of the northeast lobe, implying that there are differences in the dynamics and evolution of the kiloparsec-scale radio components.

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