Black hole X-ray binaries LMC X-1 and X-3: observations confront spectral models

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Impact Factor: 5.52). 08/2005; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2005.09294.x
Source: arXiv

ABSTRACT We present a comprehensive spectral analysis of black hole X-ray binaries, LMC X-1 and LMC X-3, based on BeppoSAX observations. We test both the multi-color disk plus power law (MCD+PL) model and a newly-developed Monte-Carlo simulation- based model for a Comptonized MCD (CMCD) with either a spherical or a slab-like corona, by comparing the inferred parameters with independent direct measurements. While all models give an adequate description of the spectra, we find a significant discrepancy between the MCD+PL inferred X-ray-absorbing gas column density and the absorption-edge measurement based on dispersed X-ray spectra. The MCD+PL fits to the LMC X-1 spectra also require a change in the inner disk radius during the BeppoSAX observation, which may be due to the nonphysical effects inherited in the model. In contrast, the CMCD model with the spheric corona gives the predictions of both the disk inclination angle and the absorption that are consistent with the direct measurements, and only slightly under-predicts the black hole mass of LMC X-3. The model explains the spectral state evolution of LMC X-1 within the BeppoSAX observation as a change in the accretion rate, which leads to an increase in both the inner disk temperature and the Comptonization opacity. On the other hand, the CMCD model with the slab-like corona is more problematic in the test and is thus not recommended. Comment: 7 pages including 3 tables and 4 figures, MNRAS in press

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    ABSTRACT: X-ray binaries are the topic of this thesis. They consist of a compact object -- a black hole or a neutron star -- and an ordinary star, which loses matter to the compact object. The gravitational energy released through this process of mass accretion is largely converted into X-rays. The latter are used in the present work to screen the environment of the compact object. The main focus in the case of a massive star is on its wind, which is not homogeneous, but may display structures in form of temperature and density variations. Since great importance is, in multiple respects, attached to stellar winds in astrophysics, there is large interest in general to understand these structures more thoroughly. In particular for X-ray binaries, whose compact object obtains matter from the wind of its companion star, the state of the wind can decisively influence mass accretion and its related radiation processes. A detailed introduction to the fundamentals of stellar winds, compact objects, accretion and radiation processes in X-ray binaries, as well as to the employed instruments and analysis methods, is given in chapter 1. The focus of this investigation is on Cygnus X-1, a binary system with a black hole and a blue supergiant, which form a persistently very bright X-ray source because of accretion from the stellar wind. It had been known for a long time that this source -- when the black hole is seen through the dense stellar wind -- often displays abrupt absorption events whose origin is suspected to be in clumps in the wind. More detailed physical properties of these clumps and of the wind in general are explored in this work. Observations that were specifically acquired for this study, as well as archival data from different satellite observatories, are analyzed in view of signatures of the wind and its fine structures. These results are presented in chapter 2. In a first part of the analysis, the statistical distribution of the brightness of Cyg X-1, as measured since 1996 with the RXTE satellite's all-sky monitor, is investigated in the context of the binary system's orbital phase. The stellar wind is here noticed via absorption of the soft X-radiation. This analysis has not only shown that the mean column density in the wind is -- as already known -- larger along lines of sight passing close by the star, but also that the wind is more clumpy there. The evaluation of more than 2 000 spectra from RXTE's proportional counter, taken within 14.5 years and mostly in the framework of a monitoring campaign, has lead to the same result. Compared to previous studies, the accuracy of the measurements could be improved by a careful investigation of the quality of the low-energy spectrum, which was required to register the scatter due to the clumpiness. In the next part, several high-resolution X-ray sepectra were analyzed, which were recorded with the gratings spectrometer of the highly requested Chandra satellite. The modulation of the absorption could, for the first time, be ascribed to the highly ionized wind, which has consequences for its quantitative interpretation due to the reduced cross sections compared to neutral absorption. Moreover, the acceleration of the wind with increasing distance from the star could be demonstrated, which constitutes an important observational evidence in terms of the wind structure. A conjecture published in 2008, according to which no wind might develop in the ionized environment of the X-ray source, is therewith disproved. By means of spectroscopy of strong absorption events, it was for the first time unequivocally demonstrated that these can be ascribed to a shift of the ionization balance to less strongly ionized gas, due to the enhanced density of the clumps. The increase of the column density of lower ionization stages is also confirmed by the spectroscopic analysis of the contemporaneous observation with the XMM-Newton satellite. Since these simultaneous observations were, in the framework of the largest observational campaign to date, accompanied by all available X-ray satellites, the effect of the absorption events on hard X-rays could be investigated as well. A flux reduction was detected in light curves at high energies, not affected by absorption, which coincides with the time of the strongest absorption event. This effect could be confirmed by time resolved spectroscopy of the XMM data, and be interpreted as due to scattering on a fully ionized cloud. The evolution of the light curve constitutes therefore a tomography of this cloud, and reveals further structure in the stellar wind. The strong absorption event is caused by the cloud's core, which is sufficiently dense that its ionization balance is shifted. Results from the analysis of another source are briefly presented in chapter 3. For the X-ray binary system LMC X-1 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, six spectra have been analyzed in view of their absorption. A connection with the orbital phase was suggested, which indicates absorption by material within the system itself. Concluding this thesis, the detailed results are summarized and discussed in chapter 4, and an outlook on future research possibilities is given.

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