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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2019-07-18
    Description: I report on the results of ongoing campaigns with Chandra to precisely time the X-ray pulsations from two candidate ultra-compact white dwarf systems; V407 Vu1 and RX J0806.3+1527. If these objects are ultra-compact binaries, then the gravitational radiation-driven evolution of the orbital period can be probed with precise X-ray timing observations. Recent Chandra data have confirmed that the X-ray frequency of V407 Vu1 is increasing at a mean rate of about 8 x 10-18 Hz s-1, a value consistent with loss of gravitational radition from the system. However, the frequency derivative, X-ray variability and phase timing noise could also be explained in an accretion driven, intermediate polar scenario. Previous studies suggested that RX J0806.3+1527 is spinning up at an even faster rate than V407 Vul, however, preliminary analysis of Chandra data do not confirm this. Indeed, the present evidence suggests we may be seeing a torque reversal in this source.
    Keywords: Astronomy
    Type: HEAD 2004; Sep 08, 2004 - Sep 11, 2004; New Orleans, LA; United States
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  • 2
    Publication Date: 2013-08-29
    Description: The burst oscillations seen during Type 1 X-ray bursts from low mass X-ray binaries (LMXB) typically evolve in period towards an asymptotic limit that likely reflects the spin of the underlying neutron star. If the underlying period is stable enough, measurement of it at different orbital phases may allow a detection of the Doppler modulation caused by the motion of the neutron star with respect to the center of mass of the binary system. Testing this hypothesis requires enough X-ray bursts and an accurate optical ephemeris to determine the binary phases at which they occurred. We present here a study of the distribution of asymptotic burst oscillation periods for a sample of 26 bursts from 4U 1636-53 observed with the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). The burst sample includes both archival and proprietary data and spans more than 4.5 years. We also present new optical light curves of V801 Arae, the optical counterpart of 4U 1636-53, obtained during 1998-2001. We use these optical data to refine the binary period measured by Augusteijn et al. to 3.7931206(152) hours. We show that a subset of approx. 70% of the bursts form a tightly clustered distribution of asymptotic periods consistent with a period stability of approx. 1 x 10(exp -4). The tightness of this distribution, made up of bursts spanning more than 4 years in time, suggests that the underlying period is highly stable, with a time to change the period of approx. 3 x 10(exp 4) yr. This is comparable to similar numbers derived for X-ray pulsars. We investigate the period and orbital phase data for our burst sample and show that it is consistent with binary motion of the neutron star with v(sub ns) sin i 〈 38 and 50 km/s at 90 and 99% confidence, respectively. We use this limit as well as previous radial velocity data to constrain the binary geometry and component masses in 4U 1636-53. Our results suggest that unless the neutron star is significantly more massive than 1.4 solar masses the secondary is unlikely to have a mass as large as 0.36 solar masses, the mass estimated assuming it is a main sequence star which fills its Roche lobe. We show that a factor of 3 increase in the number of bursts with asymptotic period measurements should allow a detection of the neutron star velocity.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
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  • 3
    Publication Date: 2019-07-12
    Description: We report the discovery with the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) of narrow emission and absorption lines during photospheric radius expansion (PRE) X-ray bursts from the ultracompact binary 4U 1820 30. NICER observed 4U 182030 in 2017 August during a low-flux, hard spectral state, accumulating about 60 ks of exposure. Five thermonuclear X-ray bursts were detected, of which four showed clear signs of PRE. We extracted spectra during the PRE phases and fit each to a model that includes a Comptonized component to describe the accretion-driven emission, and a blackbody for the burst thermal radiation. The temperature and spherical emitting radius of the fitted blackbody are used to assess the strength of PRE in each burst. The two strongest PRE bursts (burst pair 1) had blackbody temperatures of 0.6 keV and emitting radii of 100 km (at a distance of 8.4 kpc). The other two bursts (burst pair 2) had higher temperatures (0.67 keV) and smaller radii (75 km). All of the PRE bursts show evidence of narrow line emission near 1 keV. By coadding the PRE phase spectra of burst pairs 1 and, separately, 2, we find, in both coadded spectra, significant, narrow, spectral features near 1.0 (emission), 1.7, and 3.0 keV (both in absorption). Remarkably, all the fitted line centroids in the coadded spectrum of burst pair 1 appear systematically blueshifted by a factor of 1.0460.006 compared to the centroids of pair 2, strongly indicative of a gravitational shift, a wind-induced blueshift, or more likely some combination of both effects. The observed shifts are consistent with this scenario in that the stronger PRE bursts in pair 1 reach larger photospheric radii, and thus have weaker gravitational redshifts, and they generate faster outflows, yielding higher blueshifts. We discuss possible elemental identifications for the observed features in the context of recent burst-driven wind models.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN70157 , The Astrophysical Journal Letters (ISSN 2041-8205) (e-ISSN 2041-8213); 2; 878; L27
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  • 4
    Publication Date: 2019-07-13
    Description: Accretion disks around neutron stars regularly undergo sudden strong irradiation by Type I X-raybursts powered by unstable thermonuclear burning on the stellar surface. We investigate the impacton the disk during one of the first X-ray burst observations with the Neutron Star Interior CompositionExplorer (NICER) on the International Space Station. The burst is seen from Aql X-1 during the hardspectral state. In addition to thermal emission from the neutron star, the burst spectrum exhibits anexcess of soft X-ray photons below 1 keV, where NICER's sensitivity peaks. We interpret the excessas a combination of reprocessing by the strongly photoionized disk and enhancement of the pre-burstpersistent flux, possibly due to Poynting Robertson drag or coronal reprocessing. This is the firstsuch detection for a short sub-Eddington burst. As these bursts are observed frequently, NICER willbe able to study how X-ray bursts affect the disk and corona for a range of accreting neutron starsystems and disk states.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN66162 , Astrophysical Journal Letters (ISSN 2041-8205) (e-ISSN 2041-8213); 855; 1; L4
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  • 5
    Publication Date: 2019-07-13
    Description: We report the discovery with the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) of mHz X-ray brightness oscillations from the "clocked burster" GS 1826238. NICER observed the source in the periods 2017 June 2029, July 1113, and September 915, for a total useful exposure of 34 ks. Two consecutive dwells obtained on 2017 September 9 revealed highly significant oscillations at a frequency of 8 mHz. The fractional, sinusoidal modulation amplitude increases from 0.7% at 1 keV to 2% at 6 keV. Similar oscillations were also detected at lower significance in three additional dwells. The oscillation frequency and amplitude are consistent with those of mHz QPOs reported in other accreting neutron star systems. A thermonuclear X-ray burst was also observed on 2017 June 22. The burst properties and X-ray colors are both consistent with GS 1826 being in a soft spectral state during these observations, findings that are confirmed by ongoing monitoring with MAXI and SWIFT-BAT. Assuming that the mHz oscillations are associated with blackbody emission from the neutron star surface, modeling of the phase-resolved spectra shows that the oscillation is consistent with being produced by modulation of the temperature component of this emission. In this interpretation, the blackbody normalization, proportional to the emitting surface area, is consistent with being constant through the oscillation cycle. We place the observations in the context of the current theory of marginally stable burning and briefly discuss the potential for constraining neutron star properties using mHz oscillations.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN66108 , The Astrophysical Journal (ISSN 0004-637X) (e-ISSN 1538-4357); 865; 1; 63
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  • 6
    Publication Date: 2019-07-13
    Description: eXTP is a science mission designed to study the state of matter under extreme conditions of density, gravity and magnetism. Primary goals are the determination of the equation of state of matter at supra-nuclear density, the measurement of QED effects in highly magnetized star, and the study of accretion in the strong-field regime of gravity. Primary targets include isolated and binary neutron stars, strong magnetic field systems like magnetars, and stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. The mission carries a unique and unprecedented suite of state-of-the-art scientific instruments enabling for the first time ever the simultaneous spectral-timing-polarimetry studies of cosmic sources in the energy range from 0.5-30 keV (and beyond). Key elements of the payload are: the Spectroscopic Focusing Array (SFA) - a set of 11 X-ray optics for a total effective area of approx. 0.9 m(exp. 2) and 0.6 m(exp. 2) at 2 keV and 6 keV respectively, equipped with Silicon Drift Detectors offering less than 180 eV spectral resolution; the Large Area Detector (LAD) - a deployable set of 640 Silicon Drift Detectors, for a total effective area of approx. 3.4 m(exp. 2), between 6 and 10 keV, and spectral resolution better than 250 eV; the Polarimetry Focusing Array (PFA) - a set of 2 X-ray telescope, for a total effective area of 250 cm(exp. 2) at 2 keV, equipped with imaging gas pixel photoelectric polarimeters; the Wide Field Monitor (WFM) - a set of 3 coded mask wide field units, equipped with position-sensitive Silicon Drift Detectors, each covering a 90 degrees x 90 degrees field of view. The eXTP international consortium includes major institutions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Universities in China, as well as major institutions in several European countries and the United States. The predecessor of eXTP, the XTP mission concept, has been selected and funded as one of the so-called background missions in the Strategic Priority Space Science Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2011. The strong European participation has significantly enhanced the scientific capabilities of eXTP. The planned launch date of the mission is earlier than 2025.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN43898 , SPIE Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray Conference 2016; Jun 26, 2016; Edinburgh; United Kingdom|Proceedings of SPIE (ISSN 0277-786X) (e-ISSN 1996-756X); 9905; 99051Q
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  • 7
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    In:  Other Sources
    Publication Date: 2019-07-13
    Description: We derive a generalization of forward fitting for X-ray spectroscopy to include linear polarization of X-ray sources, appropriate for the anticipated next generation of space-based photoelectric polarimeters. We show that the inclusion of polarization sensitivity requires joint fitting to three observed spectra, one for each of the Stokes parameters, I(E), U(E), and Q(E). The equations for StokesI (E) (the total intensity spectrum) are identical to the familiar case with no polarization sensitivity, and for which the model-predicted spectrum is obtained by a convolution of the source spectrum, F (E), with the familiar energy response function,(E) R(E,E), where (E) and R(E,E) are the effective area and energy redistribution matrix, respectively. In addition to the energy spectrum, the two new relations for U(E) and Q(E) include the source polarization fraction and position angle versus energy, a(E), and 0(E), respectively, and the model-predicted spectra for these relations are obtained by a convolution with the modulated energy response function, (E)(E) R(E,E), where(E) is the energy-dependent modulation fraction that quantifies a polarimeters angular response to 100 polarized radiation. We present results of simulations with response parameters appropriate for the proposed PRAXyS Small Explorer observatory to illustrate the procedures and methods, and we discuss some aspects of photoelectric polarimeters with relevance to understanding their calibration and operation.
    Keywords: Astrophysics; Numerical Analysis
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN41421 , The Astrophysical Journal (ISSN 0004-637X) (e-ISSN 1538-4357); 838; 1; 72
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  • 8
    Publication Date: 2019-07-13
    Description: Thermonuclear X-ray bursts from accreting neutron stars power brief but strong irradiation of their surroundings, providing a unique way to study accretion physics. We analyze MAXI/Gas Slit Camera and Swift/XRT spectra of a day-long flash observed from IGR J17062-6143 in 2015. It is a rare case of recurring bursts at a low accretion luminosity of 0.15% Eddington. Spectra from MAXI, Chandra, and NuSTAR observations taken between the 2015 burst and the previous one in 2012 are used to determine the accretion column. We find it to be consistent with the burst ignition column of 5x10(exp 10) g cm (exp 2), which indicates that it is likely powered by burning in a deep helium layer. The burst flux is observed for over a day, and decays as a straight power law: F gamma t (exp 1.15). The burst and persistent spectra are well described by thermal emission from the neutron star, Comptonization of this emission in a hot optically thin medium surrounding the star, and reflection off the photoionized accretion disk. At the burst peak, the Comptonized component disappears, when the burst may dissipate the Comptonizing gas, and it returns in the burst tail. The reflection signal suggests that the inner disk is truncated at approximately 102 gravitational radii before the burst, but may move closer to the star during the burst. At the end of the burst, the flux drops below the burst cooling trend for 2 days, before returning to the pre-burst level.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN39916 , The Astrophysical Journal (e-ISSN 2041-8213); 836; 1; 111
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  • 9
    Publication Date: 2019-07-13
    Description: We present results of recent Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) observations of the accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar (AMXP) IGR J17062-6143 that show that it resides in a circular, ultracompact binary with a 38-minute orbital period. NICER observed the source for 26 kiloseconds over a 5.3-day span in 2017 August, and again for 14 and 11 kiloseconds in 2017 October and November, respectively. A power spectral analysis of the August exposure confirms the previous detection of pulsations at 163.656 Hertz in Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) data, and reveals phase modulation due to orbital motion of the neutron star. A coherent search for the orbital solution using the Z squared method finds a best-fitting circular orbit with a period of 2278.21 seconds (37.97 minutes), a projected semimajor axis of 0.00390 lt-s (Localization Test Statistic), and a barycentric pulsar frequency of 163.6561105 Hertz. This is currently the shortest known orbital period for an AMXP. The mass function is 9.12 times 10 (sup minus 8) solar mass, presently the smallest known for a stellar binary. The minimum donor mass ranges from approximately 0.005 to 0.007 times the solar mass for a neutron star mass from 1.2 to 2 times the solar mass. Assuming mass transfer is driven by gravitational radiation, we find donor mass and binary inclination bounds of 0.0175-0.0155 times the solar mass and 19 degrees less than i less than 27.5 degrees, where the lower and upper bounds correspond to 1.4 and 2 times the solar mass neutron stars, respectively. Folding the data accounting for the orbital modulation reveals a sinusoidal profile with fractional amplitude 2.04 plus or minus 0.11 percent (0.3-3.2 kiloelectronvolts).
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN61305 , Astrophysical Journal (ISSN 2041-8205) (e-ISSN 2041-8213); 858; 2; L13
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  • 10
    Publication Date: 2019-07-13
    Description: We present Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) observations of the neutron star (NS) low-mass X-ray binary Serpens X-1 during the early mission phase in 2017. With the high spectral sensitivity and low-energy X-ray passband of NICER, we are able to detect the Fe L line complex in addition to the signature broad, asymmetric Fe K line. We confirm the presence of these lines by comparing the NICER data to archival observations with XMM-Newton/Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS) and NuSTAR. Both features originate close to the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO). When modeling the lines with the relativistic line model RELLINE, we find that the Fe L blend requires an inner disk radius of 1.4(sup 0.2, sub -0.1)R(sub ISCO) and Fe K is at 1.03(sup 0.13, sub -0.03)R(sub ISCO) (errors quoted at 90%). This corresponds to a position of 17(sup 2.5, sub -1.2)km and 12(sup 1.6, sub -0.4)km for a canonical NS mass (M(sub NS)=1.4 solar mass) and dimensionless spin value of a = 0. Additionally, we employ a new version of the RELXILL model tailored for NS(sub s) and determine that these features arise from a dense disk and supersolar Fe abundance.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Type: GSFC-E-DAA-TN57931 , The Astrophysical Journal Letters (ISSN 2041-8205) (e-ISSN 2041-8213); 858; L5; No. 1
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