Colliding winds of massive binaries have long been considered as potential sites of non-thermal high-energy photon production. This is motivated by the detection of non-thermal spectra in the radio band, as well as by correlation studies of yet unidentified EGRET γ-ray sources with source populations appearing in star formation regions.
This work re-considers the basic radiative processes and its properties that lead to high energy photon production in long-period massive star systems. We show that Klein–Nishina effects as well as the anisotropic nature of the inverse Compton scattering, the dominating leptonic emission process, likely yield spectral and variability signatures in the γ-ray domain at or above the sensitivity of current or upcoming gamma ray instruments like GLAST-LAT. In addition to all relevant radiative losses, we include propagation (such as convection in the stellar wind) as well as photon absorption effects, which a priori can not be neglected.
The calculations are applied to WR 140 and WR 147, and predictions for their detectability in the γ-ray regime are provided. Physically similar specimen of their kind like WR 146, WR 137, WR 138, WR 112 and WR 125 may be regarded as candidate sources at GeV energies for near-future γ-ray experiments.
Finally, we discuss several aspects relevant for eventually identifying this source class as a γ-ray emitting population. Thereby we utilize our findings on the expected radiative behavior of typical colliding wind binaries in the γ-ray regime as well as its expected spatial distribution on the γ-ray sky.