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Long-term change in the cyclotron line energy in Hercules X-1

Staubert, R. and Klochkov, D. and Wilms, J. and Postnov, K. and Shakura, N. I. and Rothschild, R. E. and Fürst, F. and Harrison, F. A. (2014) Long-term change in the cyclotron line energy in Hercules X-1. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 572 . Art. No. A119. ISSN 0004-6361. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201424203.

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Aims. We investigate the long-term evolution of the cyclotron resonance scattering feature (CRSF) in the spectrum of the binary X-ray pulsar Her X-1 and present evidence of a true long-term decrease in the centroid energy E_cyc of the cyclotron line in the pulse phase averaged spectra from 1996 to 2012. Methods. Our results are based on repeated observations of Her X-1 by those X-ray observatories capable of measuring clearly beyond the cyclotron line energy of ~40 keV; these are RXTE, INTEGRAL, Suzaku, and NuSTAR. We consider results based on our own successful observing proposals as well as results from the literature. Results. The historical evolution of the pulse phase averaged CRSF centroid energy E_cyc since its discovery in 1976 is characterized by an initial value around 35 keV, an abrupt jump upwards to beyond ~40 keV between 1990 and 1994, and an apparent decay thereafter. Much of this decay, however, was found to be due to an artifact, namely a correlation between E_cyc and the X-ray luminosity L_x discovered in 2007. In observations after 2006, however, we now find a statistically significant true decrease in the cyclotron line energy. At the same time, the dependence of E_cyc on X-ray luminosity is still valid with an increase of ~5% in energy for a factor of two increase in luminosity. We also report on the first evidence of a weak dependence of E_cyc on phase of the 35 d precessional period, which manifests itself not only in the modulation of the X-ray flux, but also in the systematic variation in the shape of the 1.24 s pulse profile. One of our motivations for repeatedly observing Her X-1, namely the suspicion that the cyclotron line energy may be gradually decreasing after its strong upward jump in the early 1990s, is finally confirmed. A decrease in E_cyc by 4.2 keV over the 16 years from 1996 to 2012 can either be modeled by a linear decay, or by a slow decay until 2006 followed by a more abrupt decrease thereafter. Conclusions. The observed timescale for the decrease in Ecyc of a few decades is too short for a decay of the global magnetic field. We speculate that the physical reason could be connected to a geometric displacement of the cyclotron resonant scattering region in the polar field or to a true physical change in the magnetic field configuration at the polar cap by the continued accretion. In the second scenario, the upward jump in E_cyc observed around 1991 may have been due to a relatively fast event in which the polar magnetic field rearranged itself after releasing part of the accumulated material to larger areas of the neutron star surface.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Wilms, J.0000-0003-2065-5410
Fürst, F.0000-0003-0388-0560
Harrison, F. A.0000-0003-2992-8024
Additional Information:© 2014 ESO. Article published by EDP Sciences. Received 14 May 2014; Accepted 8 October 2014. This paper is to a large part based on observational data taken by the NASA satellite Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). We like to acknowledge the dedication of all people who have contributed to the great success of this mission. In the same way, we thank the teams of ESA’s INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL), JAXA’s Suzaku and NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). This work was supported by DFG through grants Sta 173/31-1, 2 and 436 RUS 113/717 and RFBR grants RFFI-NNIO-03-02-04003 and 06-02-16025. The work of K.P. and N.Sh. was also partially supported by RBFR grants 12-02-00186 and 14-02-00657. D.K. is indebted to the Carl Zeiss Stiftung for support. We thankfully acknowledge very useful discussions about the possible physical meaning of the observed effects with D. Bhattacharya, K. Kokkotas, K. Glampedakis and J. Trümper. Finally we thank the anonymous referee for important questions and suggestions.
Group:Space Radiation Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)Sta 173/31-1, 2
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)436 RUS 113/717
Russian Foundation for Basic ResearchRFFI-NNIO-03-02-04003
Russian Foundation for Basic Research06-02-16025
Russian Foundation for Basic Research12-02-00186
Russian Foundation for Basic Research14-02-00657
Carl Zeiss StiftungUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:radiation mechanisms: non-thermal; binaries: eclipsing; pulsars: individual: Her X-1; accretion, accretion disks; magnetic fields; X-rays: binaries
Other Numbering System:
Other Numbering System NameOther Numbering System ID
Space Radiation Laboratory2014-22
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150115-095457925
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Official Citation:Staubert, R., Klochkov, D., Wilms, J., Postnov, K., Shakura, N. I., Rothschild, R. E., . . . Harrison, F. A. (2014). Long-term change in the cyclotron line energy in Hercules X-1. A&A, 572, A119.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:53767
Deposited On:15 Jan 2015 20:16
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 20:06

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