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Published April 2020 | Accepted Version + Published
Journal Article Open

The soft state of the black hole transient source MAXI J1820+070: emission from the edge of the plunge region?


The Galactic black hole X-ray binary MAXI J1820+070 had a bright outburst in 2018 when it became the second brightest X-ray source in the sky. It was too bright for X-ray CCD instruments such as XMM–Newton and Chandra, but was well observed by photon-counting instruments such as Neutron star Inner Composition Explorer (NICER) and Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array(NuSTAR). We report here on the discovery of an excess-emission component during the soft state. It is best modelled with a blackbody spectrum in addition to the regular disc emission, modelled as either diskbb or kerrbb. Its temperature varies from about 0.9 to 1.1 keV, which is about 30–80 per cent higher than the inner disc temperature of diskbb. Its flux varies between 4 and 12 per cent of the disc flux. Simulations of magnetized accretion discs have predicted the possibility of excess emission associated with a non-zero torque at the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) about the black hole, which, from other NuSTAR studies, lies at about 5 gravitational radii or about 60 km (for a black hole, mass is 8M⊙). In this case, the emitting region at the ISCO has a width varying between 1.3 and 4.6 km and would encompass the start of the plunge region where matter begins to fall freely into the black hole.

Additional Information

© 2020 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model). Accepted 2020 February 21. Received 2020 February 19; in original form 2019 November 5. Published: 27 February 2020. ACF and SD acknowledge support from European Research Council Advanced Grant FEEDBACK, and DRW is supported by NASA through Einstein Postdoctoral Fellowship grant number PF6-170160, awarded by the Chandra X-ray Center, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for NASA under contract NAS8-03060.340442. CSR thanks the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for support under the New Applicant grant ST/R000867/1, and the European Research Council (ERC) for support under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant 834203).

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