$\eta$ Carinae is a colliding wind binary hosting two of the most massive stars and featuring the strongest wind collision mechanical luminosity. The wind collision region of this system is detected in X-rays and $\gamma$-rays and offers a unique laboratory for the study of particle acceleration and wind magneto-hydrodynamics. Our main goal is to use X-ray observations of $\eta$ Carinae around periastron to constrain the wind collision zone geometry and understand the reasons for its variability. We analysed 10 Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) observations, which were obtained around the 2014 periastron. The NuSTAR array monitored the source from 3 to 30 keV, which allowed us to grasp the continuum and absorption parameters with very good accuracy. We were able to identify several physical components and probe their variability. The X-ray flux varied in a similar way as observed during previous periastrons and largely as expected if generated in the wind collision region. The flux detected within ~10 days of periastron is lower than expected, suggesting a partial disruption of the central region of the wind collision zone. The Fe K$\alpha$ line is likely broadened by the electrons heated along the complex shock fronts. The variability of its equivalent width indicates that the fluorescence region has a complex geometry and that the source obscuration varies quickly with the line of sight.
C. Panagiotou and R. Walter
Wed, 6 Dec 17
Comments: to be published in A&A, 7 pages, 9 figures