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A Comparison of the Variability of the Symbiotic X-ray Binaries GX 1+4, 4U 1954+31, and 4U 1700+24 from Swift/BAT and RXTE/ASM Observations

By R. H. D. Corbet, J. L. Sokoloski, K. Mukai, C. B. Markwardt and J. Tueller


We present an analysis of the X-ray variability of three symbiotic X-ray binaries, GX 1+4, 4U1700+24, and 4U1954+31, using observations made with the Swift Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) and the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) All-Sky Monitor (ASM). Observations of 4U1954+31 with the Swift BAT show modulation at a period near 5 hours. Models to explain this modulation are discussed including the presence of an exceptionally slow X-ray pulsar in the system and accretion instabilities. We conclude that the most likely interpretation is that 4U1954+31 contains one of the slowest known X-ray pulsars. Unlike 4U1954+31, neither GX 1+4 nor 4U1700+24 show any evidence for modulation on a timescale of hours. An analysis of the RXTE ASM light curves of GX 1+4, 4U1700+24, and 4U1954+31 does not show the presence of periodic modulation in any source, although there is considerable variability on long timescales for all three sources. There is no modulation in GX 1+4 on either the optical 1161 day orbital period or a previously reported 304 day X-ray period. For 4U1700+24 we do not confirm the 404 day X-ray period previously proposed for this source from a shorter duration ASM light curve. We conclude that all three sources have substantial low-frequency noise in their power spectra that may give the appearance of periodic modulation if this noise is not properly accounted for, particularly if short duration light curves are examined. Subject headings: stars: individual (GX 1+4, 4U1954+31, 4U1700+24) — stars

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