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Modeling Accretion Disk X-ray Continuum of Black Hole Candidates

By Gabor Pszota and Wei Cui


We critically examine issues associated with determining the fundamental properties of the black hole and the surrounding accretion disk in an X-ray binary based on modeling the disk X-ray continuum of the source. We base our work mainly on two XMM-Newton observations of GX 339−4, because they provided high-quality data at low energies (below 1 keV), which are critical for reliably modeling the spectrum of the accretion disk. A key issue examined is the determination of the so-called “color correction factor”, which is often empirically introduced to account for the deviation of the local disk spectrum from a blackbody (due to electron scattering). This factor cannot be predetermined theoretically, because it may vary with, e.g., mass accretion rate, among a number of important factors. We follow up on an earlier suggestion to estimate the color correction observationally by modeling the disk spectrum with saturated Compton scattering. We show that the spectra can be fitted well, and the approach yields reasonable values for the color correction factor. For comparison, we have also attempted to fit the spectra with other models. We show that even the high-soft state continuum (which is dominated by the disk emission) cannot be satisfactorily fitted by state-of-the-art disk models. We discuss the implications of these results. Subject headings: accretion, accretion disks — black hole physics – stars: individua

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