The spectrum of a fast shock breakout from a stellar wind

Kunihito Ioka, Amir Levinson, Ehud Nakar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The breakout of a fast (>0.1c), yet sub-relativistic shock from a thick stellar wind is expected to produce a pulse of X-rays with a rise time of seconds to hours. Here, we construct a semi-analytic model for the breakout of a sub-relativistic, radiation-mediated shock from a thick stellar wind, and use it to compute the spectrum of the breakout emission. The model incorporates photon escape through the finite optical depth wind, assuming a diffusion approximation and a quasi-steady evolution of the shock structure during the breakout phase. We find that in sufficiently fast shocks, for which the breakout velocity exceeds about 0.1c, the time-integrated spectrum of the breakout pulse is non-thermal, and the time-resolved temperature is expected to exhibit substantial decrease (roughly by one order of magnitude) during breakout, when the flux is still rising, because of the photon generation by the shock compression associated with the photon escape. We also derive a closure relation between the breakout duration, peak luminosity, and characteristic temperature that can be used to test whether an observed X-ray flare is consistent with being associated with a sub-relativistic shock breakout from a thick stellar wind or not. We also discuss implications of the spectral softening for a possible breakout event XRT 080109/SN 2008D.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3502-3509
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 11 Apr 2019


  • Gamma-ray burst: general
  • Radiation: dynamics
  • Shock waves
  • Stars: Wolf-Rayet
  • Supernovae: general
  • X-rays: bursts


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