A Chandra study of the Circinus galaxy point-source population

F. E. Bauer, W. N. Brandt, R. M. Sambruna, G. Chartas, G. P. Garmire, S. Kaspi, H. Netzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


We have used the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to resolve spatially and spectrally the X-ray emission from the Circinus galaxy. We report here on the nature of the X-ray emission from the off-nuclear point sources associated with the disk of Circinus, which make up ≈34% of the total 0.5-10 keV emission. We find that many of the serendipitous X-ray sources are concentrated along the optical disk of the galaxy, although few have optical counterparts within 1″ of their X-ray positions down to limiting magnitudes of mv = 23-25. At the distance of Circinus (≈3.8 Mpc), their intrinsic 0.5-10 keV luminosities range from ≈2 × 1037 ergs s-1 to ≈4 × 1039 ergs s-1. One-fourth of the sources are variable over the duration of the 67 ks observation, and spectral fitting of these off-nuclear sources shows a diverse range of spectral properties. The overall characteristics of the point sources suggest that most are X-ray binaries and/or ultraluminous supernova remnants within Circinus. We are able to analyze the two strongest off-nuclear sources in greater detail and find both to have remarkable properties. The average X-ray luminosities of the two sources are 3.7 × 1039 ergs s-1 and 3.4 × 1039 ergs s-1. The former displays large and periodic flux variations every 7.5 hr and is well fitted by a multicolor blackbody accretion disk model with Tin = 1.35 keV, properties consistent with an eclipsing ≲ 50 M black hole binary. The latter appears to be a young supernova remnant, as it coincides with a nonthermal radio counterpart and an Hα-detected H II region. This source exhibits both long-term (≈4 yr) X-ray variability and a 6.67-6.97 keV iron emissionline blend with a 1.6 keV equivalent width. These two objects further support the notion that super-Eddington X-ray sources in nearby galaxies can be explained by a mixture of intermediate-mass black holes in X-ray binaries and young supernova remnants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-193
Number of pages12
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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