207 research outputs found

    Future Probes of the Neutron Star Equation of State Using X-ray Bursts

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    Observations with NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) have resulted in the discovery of fast (200 - 600 Hz), coherent X-ray intensity oscillations (hereafter, "burst oscillations") during thermonuclear X-ray bursts from 12 low mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs). It is now beyond doubt that these oscillations result from spin modulation of the thermonuclear burst flux from the neutron star surface. Among the new timing phenomena revealed by RXTE the burst oscillations are perhaps the best understood, in the sense that many of their properties can be explained in the framework of this relatively simple model. Because of this, detailed modelling of burst oscillations can be an extremely powerful probe of neutron star structure, and thus the equation of state (EOS) of supra-nuclear density matter. The new discoveries have spurred much new theoretical work on thermonuclear burning and propagation on neutron stars, so that in the near future it is not unreasonable to think that detailed physical models of the time dependent flux from burning neutron stars will be available for comparison with the observed pulse profiles from a future, large collecting area X-ray timing observatory. In addition, recent high resolution burst spectroscopy with XMM/Newton suggests the presence of redshifted absorption lines from the neutron star surface during bursts. This leads to the possibility of using large area, high spectral resolution measurements of X-ray bursts as a precise probe of neutron star structure. In this work I will explore the precision with which constraints on neutron star structure, and hence the dense matter EOS, can be made with the implementation of such programs.Comment: 8 pages, 7 figures, AIP conference proceedings format. Contribution to "X-ray Timing 2003: Rossi and Beyond." meeting held in Cambridge, MA, November, 200

    Precision X-ray Timing of RX J0806.3+1527 with CHANDRA: Evidence for Gravitational Radiation from an Ultracompact Binary

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    RX J0806.3+1527 is a candidate double degenerate binary with possibly the shortest known orbital period. The source shows an 100% X-ray intensity modulation at the putative orbital frequency of 3.11 mHz (321.5 s). If the system is a detached, ultracompact binary gravitational radiation should drive spin-up with a magnitude of ~10-16 Hz/s. Here we describe the results of the first phase coherent X-ray monitoring campaign on RX J0806.3+1527 with Chandra. We obtained a total of 70 ksec of exposure in 6 epochs logarithmically spaced over 320 days. These data conclusively show that the X-ray frequency is increasing at a rate of 3.77 +- 0.8 x 10-16 Hz/s. Using our new ephemeris we are able to phase up all the earlier Chandra and ROSAT data and show they are consistent with a rate of 3.63 +- 0.06 x 10-16 Hz/s over the past decade. This value appears consistent with that recently derived by Israel et al. largely from monitoring of the optical modulation, and is in rough agreement with the solutions reported initially by Hakala et al., based on ground-based optical observations. The large spin-up is consistent with gravitational radiation losses driving the evolution. An intermediate polar (IP) scenario where the observed X-ray period is the spin period of an accreting white dwarf appears less tenable. If the ultracompact scenario is correct, then the X-ray flux cannot be powered by stable accretion which would drive the components apart, suggesting a new type of energy source (perhaps electromagnetic) may power the X-ray flux.Comment: 23 pages, 9 figures, AASTeX, accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journa

    Discovery of a 115 Day Orbital Period in the Ultraluminous X-ray Source NGC 5408 X-1

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    We report the detection of a 115 day periodicity in SWIFT/XRT monitoring data from the ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) NGC 5408 X-1. Our ongoing campaign samples its X-ray flux approximately twice weekly and has now achieved a temporal baseline of ~485 days. Periodogram analysis reveals a significant periodicity with a period of 115.5 +- 4 days. The modulation is detected with a significance of 3.2 e-4. The fractional modulation amplitude decreases with increasing energy, ranging from 0.13 above 1 keV to 0.24 below 1 keV. The shape of the profile evolves as well, becoming less sharply peaked at higher energies. The periodogram analysis is consistent with a periodic process, however, continued monitoring is required to confirm the coherent nature of the modulation. Spectral analysis indicates that NGC 5408 X-1 can reach 0.3 - 10 keV luminosities of ~2 e40 ergs/s. We suggest that, like the 62 day period of the ULX in M82 (X41.4+60), the periodicity detected in NGC 5408 X-1 represents the orbital period of the black hole binary containing the ULX. If this is true then the secondary can only be a giant or supergiant star.Comment: Accepted for Publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letter

    Thermonuclear Flame Spreading on Rapidly Spinning Neutron Stars: Indications of the Coriolis Force?

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    Millisecond period brightness oscillations during the intensity rise of thermonuclear X-ray bursts are likely caused by an azimuthally asymmetric, expanding burning region on the stellar surface. The time evolution of the oscillation amplitude during the intensity rise encodes information on how the thermonuclear flames spread across the stellar surface. This process depends on properties of the accreted burning layer, surface fluid motions, and the surface magnetic field structure, and thus can provide insight into these stellar properties. We present two examples of bursts from different sources that show a decrease in oscillation amplitude during the intensity rise. Using theoretical modeling, we demonstrate that the observed amplitude evolution of these bursts is not well described by a uniformly expanding circular burning region. We further show that by including in our model the salient aspects of the Coriolis force (as described by Spitkovsky, Levin, and Ushomirsky) we can qualitatively reproduce the observed evolution curves. Our modeling shows that the evolutionary structure of burst oscillation amplitude is sensitive to the nature of flame spreading, while the actual amplitude values can be very useful to constrain some source parameters.Comment: 8 pages, 4 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ Letter

    On the Nature of the mHz X-Ray Quasi-periodic Oscillations from Ultraluminous X-Ray Source M82 X-1: Search for Timing-Spectral Correlations

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    Using all the archival XMM-Newton X-ray (3-10 keV) observations of the ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) M82 X-1 we searched for a correlation between its variable mHz quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) frequency and its hardness ratio (5-10 keV/3-5 keV), an indicator of the energy spectral power-law index. When stellar-mass black holes (StMBHs) exhibit Type-C low-frequency QPOs (~ 0.2-15 Hz) the centroid frequency of the QPO is known to correlate with the energy spectral index. The detection of such a correlation would strengthen the identification of M82 X-1's mHz QPOs as Type-C and enable a more reliable mass estimate by scaling its QPO frequencies to those of Type-C QPOs in StMBHs of known mass. We resolved the count rates and the hardness ratios of M82 X-1 and a nearby bright ULX (source 5/X42.3+59) through surface brightness modeling. We detected QPOs in the frequency range of 36-210 mHz during which M82 X-1's hardness ratio varied from 0.42-0.47. Our primary results are: (1) we do not detect any correlation between the mHz QPO frequency and the hardness ratio (a substitute for the energy spectral power-law index) and (2) similar to some accreting X-ray binaries, we find that M82 X-1's mHz QPO frequency increases with its X-ray count rate (Pearson's correlation coefficient = +0.97). The apparent lack of a correlation between the QPO centroid frequency and the hardness ratio poses a challenge to the earlier claims that the mHz QPOs of M82 X-1 are the analogs of the Type-C low-frequency QPOs of StMBHs. On the other hand, it is possible that the observed relation between the hardness ratio and the QPO frequency represents the saturated portion of the correlation seen in Type-C QPOs of StMBHs -- in which case M82 X-1's mHz QPOs can still be analogous to Type-C QPOs.Comment: Published in Ap
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