Discovery of the accretion-powered millisecond pulsar SWIFT J1756.9-2508 with a low-mass companion


We report on the discovery by the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer of the eighth known transient accretion-powered millisecond pulsar, SWIFT J1756.9-2508, as part of routine observations with the Swift Burst Alert Telescope hard X-ray transient monitor. The pulsar was subsequently observed by both the X-Ray Telescope on Swift and the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer Proportional Counter Array. It has a spin frequency of 182 Hz (5.5 ms) and an orbital period of 54.7 minutes. The minimum companion mass is between 0.0067 and 0.0086 solar masses, depending on the mass of the neutron star, and the upper limit on the mass is 0.030 solar masses (95% confidence level). Such a low mass is inconsistent with brown dwarf models, and comparison with white dwarf models suggests that the companion is a He-dominated donor whose thermal cooling has been at least modestly slowed by irradiation from the accretion flux. No X-ray bursts, dips, eclipses or quasi-periodic oscillations were detected. The current outburst lasted approximately 13 days and no earlier outbursts were found in archival data.Comment: 13 pages, 2 figures, accepted by Astrophysical Journal Letter

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