EXIST perspective for Supergiant Fast X-ray Transients

Source: arXiv

ABSTRACT Supergiant Fast X-ray Transients (SFXTs) are one of the most intriguing (and unexpected) results of the INTEGRAL mission. They are a new class of High Mass X-ray Binaries involving about 20 sources to date, with 8 firmly identified SFXTs and many candidates. They are composed by a massive OB supergiant star as companion donor and a compact object. At least four SFXTs host a neutron star, because X-ray pulsations have been discovered, while for the others a black hole cannot be excluded. SFXTs display short X-ray outbursts (compared with Be/X-ray transients) characterized by fast flares on brief timescales of hours and large flux variability typically in the range 1,000-100,000. The INTEGRAL/IBIS sensitivity allowed to catch only the bright flares (peaking at 1E36-1E37erg/s), without persistent or quiescent emission. The investigation of their properties, in particular the rapid variability time scales of their flaring activity, will greatly benefit from observations with the Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope (EXIST), with the possibility to perform a long term and continuous as possible monitoring of the hard X-ray sky. Comment: Accepted for publication on PoS, Proceedings of "The Extreme sky: Sampling the Universe above 10 keV", held in Otranto (Italy) in October 2009

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    ABSTRACT: We report the results from archival XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL observations of the Supergiant Fast X-ray Transient (SFXT) IGR J18483-0311 in quiescence. The 18-60 keV hard X-ray behaviour of the source is presented here for the first time, it is characterized by a spectral shape ($\Gamma$ about 2.5) similar to that during outburst activity and the lowest measured luminosity level is about 10^34 erg s^-1. The 0.5-10 keV luminosity state, measured by XMM-Newton during the apastron passage, is about one order of magnitude lower and it is reasonably fitted by an absorbed black body model yielding parameters consistent with previous measurements. In addition, we find evidence (about 3.5 sigma significance) of an emission-like feature at about 3.3 keV in the quiescent 0.5-10 keV source spectrum. The absence of any known or found systematic effects, which could artificially introduce the observed feature, give us confidence about its non-instrumental nature. We show that its physical explanation in terms of atomic emission line appears unlikely and conversely we attempt to ascribe it to an electron cyclotron emission line which would imply a neutron star magnetic field of the order of about 3x10^11 G. Importantly, such direct estimation is in very good agreement with that independently inferred by us in the framework of accretion from a spherically symmetric stellar wind. If firmly confirmed by future longer X-ray observations, this would be the first detection ever of a cyclotron feature in the X-ray spectrum of a SFXT, with important implications on theoretical models. Comment: accepted for publication in MNRAS letter, 5 pages, 3 figures
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 12/2009; · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper we survey the theory of wind accretion in high mass X-ray binaries hosting a magnetic neutron star and a supergiant companion. We concentrate on the different types of interaction between the inflowing wind matter and the neutron star magnetosphere that are relevant when accretion of matter onto the neutron star surface is largely inhibited; these include the inhibition through the centrifugal and magnetic barriers. Expanding on earlier work, we calculate the expected luminosity for each regime and derive the conditions under which transition from one regime to another can take place. We show that very large luminosity swings (~10^4 or more on time scales as short as hours) can result from transitions across different regimes. The activity displayed by supergiant fast X-ray transients, a recently discovered class of high mass X-ray binaries in our galaxy, has often been interpreted in terms of direct accretion onto a neutron star immersed in an extremely clumpy stellar wind. We show here that the transitions across the magnetic and/or centrifugal barriers can explain the variability properties of these sources as a results of relatively modest variations in the stellar wind velocity and/or density. According to this interpretation we expect that supergiant fast X-ray transients which display very large luminosity swings and host a slowly spinning neutron star are characterized by magnetar-like fields, irrespective of whether the magnetic or the centrifugal barrier applies. Supergiant fast X-ray transients might thus provide a new opportunity to detect and study magnetars in binary systems. Comment: Accepted for publication in ApJ. 16 pages, 6 figures
    The Astrophysical Journal 05/2008; · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: IGR J11215-5952 is a hard X-ray transient discovered in 2005 April by INTEGRAL and a member of the new class of HMXB, the Supergiant Fast X-ray Transients (SFXTs). While INTEGRAL and RXTE observations have shown that the outbursts occur with a periodicity of ~330 days, Swift data have recently demonstrated that the true outburst period is ~165 days. IGR J11215-5952 is the first discovered SFXT displaying periodic outbursts, which are possibly related to the orbital period. We performed a Guest Investigator observation with Swift that lasted 20ks and several follow-up Target of Opportunity (ToO) observations, for a total of ~32ks, during the expected "apastron" passage (defined assuming an orbital period of ~330 days), between 2008 June 16 and July 4. The characteristics of this "apastron'' outburst are quite similar to those previously observed during the "periastron'' outburst of 2007 February 9. The mean spectrum of the bright peaks can be fit with an absorbed power law model with a photon index of 1 and an absorbing column of 1E22 cm^-2. This outburst reached luminosities of ~1E36 erg/s (1-10keV), comparable with the ones measured in 2007. The light curve can be modelled with the parameters obtained by Sidoli et al. (2007) for the 2007 February 9 outburst, although some differences can be observed in its shape. The properties of the rise to this new outburst and the comparison with the previous outbursts allow us to suggest that the true orbital period of IGR J11215-5952 is very likely 164.6 days, and that the orbit is eccentric, with the different outbursts produced at the periastron passage, when the neutron star crosses the inclined equatorial wind from the supergiant companion. Based on a ToO observation performed on 2008 March 25-27, we can exclude that the period is 165/2 days. [Abridged]
    The Astrophysical Journal 01/2009; 696(2):2068-2074. · 6.73 Impact Factor


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