We present nearly simultaneous Chandra and NuSTAR observations of two actively star-forming galaxies within 50 Mpc: NGC 3256 and NGC 3310. Both galaxies are detected by both Chandra and NuSTAR, which together provide the first-ever spectra of these two galaxies spanning 0.3-30 keV. The X-ray emission from both galaxies is spatially resolved by Chandra; we find that hot gas dominates the E < 1-3 keV emission while ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) dominate at E > 1-3 keV. The NuSTAR galaxy-wide spectra of both galaxies follow steep power-law distributions with Gamma ~ 2.6 at E > 5-7 keV, similar to the spectra of bright individual ULXs and other galaxies that have been studied by NuSTAR. We find that both NGC 3256 and NGC 3310 have X-ray detected sources coincident with nuclear regions; however, the steep NuSTAR spectra of both galaxies restricts these sources to be either low luminosity AGN or non-AGN in nature (e.g., ULXs or crowded X-ray sources that reach L2-10 keV ~ 10^40 erg/s cannot be ruled out). Combining our constraints on the 0.3-30 keV spectra of NGC 3256 and NGC 3310 with equivalent measurements for nearby star-forming galaxies M83 and NGC 253, we analyze the SFR-normalized spectra of these starburst galaxies. The spectra of all four galaxies show sharply declining power-law slopes above 3-6 keV due to ULX populations. Our observations therefore constrain the average spectra of luminous accreting binaries (i.e., ULXs). This result is similar to the super-Eddington accreting ULXs that have been studied individually in a targeted NuSTAR ULX program. We also find that NGC 3310 exhibits a factor of ~3-10 elevation of X-ray emission over the other star-forming galaxies. We argue that the excess is most likely explained by the relatively low metallicity of the young stellar population in NGC 3310.
B. Lehmer, J. Tyler, A. Hornschemeier, et. al.
Wed, 6 May 15
Comments: 13 pages, 6 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ