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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


The Galactic centre (GC) provides a unique laboratory for a detailed examination of the interplay between massive star formation and the nuclear environment of our Galaxy. Here, we present a 100-ks Chandra Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) observation of the Arches and Quintuplet star clusters. We also report on a complementary mapping of the dense molecular gas near the Arches cluster made with the Owens Valley Millimeter Array. We present a catalogue of 244 point-like X-ray sources detected in the observation. Their number–flux relation indicates an overpopulation of relatively bright X-ray sources, which are apparently associated with the clusters. The sources in the core of the Arches and Quintuplet clusters are most likely extreme colliding wind massive star binaries. The diffuse X-ray emission from the core of the Arches cluster has a spectrum showing a 6.7-keV emission line and a surface intensity profile declining steeply with radius, indicating an origin in a cluster wind. In the outer regions near the Arches cluster, the overall diffuse X-ray enhancement demonstrates a bow shock morphology and is prominent in the Fe Kα 6.4-keV line emission with an equivalent width of ∼1.4 keV. Much of this enhancement may result from an ongoing collision between the cluster and the adjacent molecular cloud, which have a relative velocity ≳120 km−1. The older and less-compact Quintuplet cluster contains much weaker X-ray sources and diffuse emission, probably originating from low-mass stellar objects as well as a cluster wind. However, the overall population of these objects, constrained by the observed total diffuse X-ray luminosities, is substantially smaller than expected for both clusters, if they have normal Miller & Scalo initial mass functions. This deficiency of low-mass objects may be a manifestation of the unique star formation environment of the GC, where high-velocity cloud–cloud and cloud–cluster collisions are frequent.


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