Superburst oscillations: ocean and crustal modes excited by carbon-triggered type I X-ray bursts


Accreting neutron stars (NS) can exhibit high frequency modulations in their light curves during thermonuclear X-ray bursts, known as burst oscillations. The frequencies can be offset from the spin frequency of the NS by several Hz, and can drift by 1–3 Hz. One possible explanation is a mode in the bursting ocean, the frequency of which would decrease (in the rotating frame) as the burst cools, hence explaining the drifts. Most burst oscillations have been observed during the H/He-triggered bursts; however there has been one observation of oscillations during a superburst; hours long Type I X-ray bursts caused by unstable carbon burning deeper in the ocean. This paper calculates the frequency evolution of an oceanic r mode during a superburst. The rotating frame frequency varies during the burst from 4–14 Hz and is sensitive to the background parameters, in particular the temperature of the ocean and ignition depth. This calculation is compared to the superburst oscillations observed on 4U-1636-536. The predicted mode frequencies (∼10 Hz) would require a spin frequency of ∼592 Hz to match observations; 6 Hz higher than the spin inferred from an oceanic r-mode model for the H/He-triggered burst oscillations. This model also overpredicts the frequency drift during the superburst by 90 per cent⁠

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Last time updated on 3/31/2019

This paper was published in NARCIS .

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