Properties of bow-shock sources at the Galactic center

Sanchez-Bermudez, J.; Schödel, R.; Alberdi, A.; Muzic, K.; Hummel, C. A.; Pott, J.-U.
Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 567, id.A21, 16 pp. (2014).


Context. There exists an enigmatic population of massive stars around the Galactic center (GC) that were formed some Myr ago. A fraction of these stars has been found to orbit the supermassive black hole, Sgr A*, in a projected clockwise disk-like structure, which suggests that they were formed in a formerly existing dense disk around Sgr A*. 
Aims: We focus on a subgroup of objects, the extended, near-infrared (NIR) bright sources IRS 1W, IRS 5, IRS 10W, and IRS 21, that have been suggested to be young, massive stars that form bow shocks through their interaction with the interstellar medium (ISM). Their nature has impeded accurate determinations of their orbital parameters. We aim at establishing their nature and kinematics to test whether they form part of the clockwise disk. 
Methods: We performed NIR multiwavelength imaging with NACO/VLT using direct adaptive optics (AO) and AO-assisted sparse aperture masking (SAM). We introduce a new method for self-calibration of the SAM point spread function in dense stellar fields. The emission mechanism, morphology, and kinematics of the targets were examined via 3D models, combined with existing models of the gas flow in the central parsec. 
Results: We confirm previous findings that IRS 21, IRS 1W, and IRS 5 are bow-shocks created by the interaction between mass-losing stars and the interstellar gas. The nature of IRS 10W remains unclear. Our modeling shows that the bow-shock emission is caused by thermal emission, while the scattering of stellar light does not play a significant role. IRS 1W shows a morphology that is consistent with a bow shock produced by an anisotropic stellar wind or by locally inhomogeneous ISM density. Our best-fit models provide estimates of the local proper motion of the ISM in the Northern Arm that agree with previously published models that were based on radio interferometry and NIR spectroscopy. Assuming that all of the sources are gravitationally tied to Sagittarius A*, their orbital planes were obtained via a Monte Carlo simulation. 
Conclusions: Our sources appear to be Wolf-Rayet stars associated to the last starburst at the GC. Our orbital analysis suggests that they are not part of any of the previously suggested coherent stellar structures, in particular the clockwise disk. We thus add more evidence to recent findings that a large proportion of the massive stars show apparently random orbital orientations, suggesting either that not all of them were formed in the clockwise disk, or that their orbits were randomized rapidly after formation in the disk.

Appendix A is available in electronic form at