A Supernova-driven, Magnetically-collimated Outflow as the Origin of the Galactic Center Radio Bubbles

26 Jan 2021  ·  Mengfei Zhang, Zhiyuan Li, Mark R. Morris ·

A pair of non-thermal radio bubbles recently discovered in the inner few hundred parsecs of the Galactic center bears a close spatial association with elongated, thermal X-ray features called the X-ray chimneys. While their morphology, position, and orientation vividly point to an outflow from the Galactic center, the physical processes responsible for the outflow remain to be understood. We use three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations to test the hypothesis that the radio bubbles/X-ray chimneys are the manifestation of an energetic outflow driven by multiple core-collapsed supernovae in the nuclear stellar disk, where numerous massive stars are known to be present. Our simulations are run with different combinations of two main parameters, the supernova birth rate and the strength of a global magnetic field being vertically oriented with respect to the disk. The simulation results show that a hot gas outflow can naturally form and acquire a vertically elongated shape due to collimation by the magnetic pressure. In particular, the simulation with an initial magnetic field strength of 80 $\mu$G and a supernova rate of 1 $kyr^{-1}$ can well reproduce the observed morphology, internal energy and X-ray luminosity of the bubbles after an evolutionary time of 330 kyr. On the other hand, a magnetic field strength of 200 $\mu$G gives rise to an overly elongated outflow that is inconsistent with the observed bubbles. The simulations also reveal that, inside the bubbles, mutual collisions between the shock waves of individual supernovae produce dense filaments of locally amplified magnetic field. Such filaments may account for a fraction of the synchrotron-emitting radio filaments known to exist in the Galactic center.

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Astrophysics of Galaxies