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Astron. Astrophys. 334, 110-116 (1998)

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ROSAT HRI discovery of luminous extended X-ray emission
in NGC 6240

Stefanie Komossa 1, Hartmut Schulz 2 and Jochen Greiner 3

1 Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, Postfach 1603, D-85740 Garching, Germany
2 Astronomisches Institut der Ruhr-Universität, D-44780 Bochum, Germany
3 Astrophysikalisches Institut, D-14482 Potsdam, Germany

Received 4 December 1997 / Accepted 9 February 1998


We report the detection of luminous extended X-ray emission in NGC 6240 on the basis of ROSAT HRI observations of this ultraluminous IR galaxy. The spatial structure and temporal behavior of the X-ray source were analyzed. We find that [FORMULA] of the soft X-ray emission is extended beyond a radius of 5". Strong emission can be traced out to a radius of 20"  and weaker emission extends out to [FORMULA] 50". With a luminosity of at least [FORMULA] 1042 erg/s this makes NGC 6240 one of the most luminous X-ray emitters in extended emission known. Evidence for a nuclear compact variable component is indicated by a drop of 32% in the HRI count rate as compared to the PSPC data taken one year earlier. No short-timescale variability is detected. The HRI data, which represent the first high-resolution study of the X-ray emission from NGC 6240, complement previous spectral fits to ROSAT PSPC data that suggested a two-component model consisting of thermal emission from shocked gas immersed in a starburst wind plus a powerlaw source attributed to scattered light from an obscured AGN.

We discuss several models to account for the extended and compact emission. Although pushed to its limits the starburst outflow model is tenable for the essential part of the extended emission. For the AGN-type component we propose a model consisting of a near-nuclear 'warm scatterer' that explains the apparent fading of the X-ray flux within a year as well as the strong FeK [FORMULA] complex seen in an ASCA spectrum.

Key words: galaxies: active – galaxies: interactions – galaxies: starburst – galaxies: individual: NGC 6240 – X-rays: galaxies

Send offprint requests to: Stefanie Komossa, (skomossa@xray.mpe.mpg.de)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: May 12, 1998