IONIZATION NEBULAE SURROUNDING CAL-83 AND OTHER SUPERSOFT X-RAY SOURCES
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We present the results of an optical search for ionized gaseous nebulae surrounding luminous, "supersoft" X-ray sources in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. This relatively new and mysterious X-ray class has characteristic luminosities 1037-1038 ergs s-1 with effective temperatures in the range of 2-6 105 K. The presence of a large flux of UV and soft X-ray photons from these objects has led to predictions of bright optical emission lines from the local interstellar medium. One such object, CAL 83 in the LMC, was known to have an associated nebula, and we quantify here the asymmetry and luminosity of this remarkable nebula. Deep images were made using narrowband filters to isolate the emission lines of H and [O III] (5007). In these emission lines, the nebula is detected out to distances as far as 25 pc from the central object, and the integrated luminosity in each line is of order 100 L. Model calculations of such nebulae for chemical abundances characteristic of the LMC indicate that 1% of the X-ray luminosity of the central source is reprocessed into the nebular H and [O III] 5007 emission lines, from which we conclude that the time-averaged X-ray luminosity of the central source, CAL 83, is greater than 3 1037 ergs s-1. The bright inner nebula contains 150 M within 7.5 pc of CAL 83, which clearly indicates that the nebular material has its origin in the interstellar medium. In sharp contrast, there were null detections for nebulae associated with nine other luminous, supersoft X-ray sources in the LMC and SMC, with upper limits for the [O III] luminosity that are a factor of 10 below that for CAL 83. For eight of these latter sources, we conclude that either their time-averaged luminosity is substantially below that of CAL 83, or that the local interstellar medium is much less dense. The latter effect may be enhanced by expansion of the ionized nebula during the last several million years.