X-ray Astronomy - Analytical X-ray Astronomy

Analytical X-ray Astronomy

Analytical X-ray astronomy is applied to an astronomy puzzle in an attempt to provide an acceptable solution. Consider the following puzzle.

High-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs) are composed of OB supergiant companion stars and compact objects, usually neutron stars (NS) or black holes (BH). Supergiant X-ray binaries (SGXBs) are HMXBs in which the compact objects orbit massive companions with orbital periods of a few days (3–15 d), and in circular (or slightly eccentric) orbits. SGXBs show typical the hard X-ray spectra of accreting pulsars and most show strong absorption as obscured HMXBs. X-ray luminosity (Lx) increases up to 1036 erg·s−1 (1029 watts).

The mechanism triggering the different temporal behavior observed between the classical SGXBs and the recently discovered supergiant fast X-ray transients (SFXT)s is still debated.

Aim: use the discovery of long orbits (>15 d) to help discriminate between emission models and perhaps bring constraints on the models.

Method: analyze archival data on various SGXBs such as has been obtained by INTEGRAL for candidates exhibiting long orbits. Build short- and long-term light curves. Perform a timing analysis in order to study the temporal behavior of each candidate on different time scales.

Compare various astronomical models:

  • direct spherical accretion
  • Roche-Lobe overflow via an accretion disk on the compact object.

Draw some conclusions: for example, the SGXB SAX J1818.6-1703 was discovered by BeppoSAX in 1998, identified as a SGXB of spectral type between O9I−B1I, which also displayed short and bright flares and an unusually very low quiescent level leading to its classification as a SFXT. The analysis indicated an unusually long orbital period: 30.0 ± 0.2 d and an elapsed accretion phase of ~6 d implying an elliptical orbit and possible supergiant spectral type between B0.5-1I with eccentricities e ~ 0.3–0.4. The large variations in the X-ray flux can be explained through accretion of macro-clumps formed within the stellar wind.

Choose which model seems to work best: for SAX J1818.6-1703 the analysis best fits the model that predicts SFXTs behave as SGXBs with different orbital parameters; hence, different temporal behavior.

Read more about this topic:  X-ray Astronomy

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