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Title: Is the Milky Way's hot halo convectively unstable?

We investigate the convective stability of two popular types of model of the gas distribution in the hot Galactic halo. We first consider models in which the halo density and temperature decrease exponentially with height above the disk. These halo models were created to account for the fact that, on some sight lines, the halo's X-ray emission lines and absorption lines yield different temperatures, implying that the halo is non-isothermal. We show that the hot gas in these exponential models is convectively unstable if γ < 3/2, where γ is the ratio of the temperature and density scale heights. Using published measurements of γ and its uncertainty, we use Bayes' theorem to infer posterior probability distributions for γ, and hence the probability that the halo is convectively unstable for different sight lines. We find that, if these exponential models are good descriptions of the hot halo gas, at least in the first few kiloparsecs from the plane, the hot halo is reasonably likely to be convectively unstable on two of the three sight lines for which scale height information is available. We also consider more extended models of the halo. While isothermal halo models are convectively stable if the densitymore » decreases with distance from the Galaxy, a model of an extended adiabatic halo in hydrostatic equilibrium with the Galaxy's dark matter is on the boundary between stability and instability. However, we find that radiative cooling may perturb this model in the direction of convective instability. If the Galactic halo is indeed convectively unstable, this would argue in favor of supernova activity in the Galactic disk contributing to the heating of the hot halo gas.« less
Authors:
;  [1]
  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22351494
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 784; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ABSORPTION; CONVECTION; CONVECTIVE INSTABILITIES; DENSITY; DISTANCE; DISTRIBUTION; EMISSION; EQUILIBRIUM; HEATING; MILKY WAY; NONLUMINOUS MATTER; PROBABILITY; RADIATIVE COOLING; STABILITY; X RADIATION