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      Accretion disk signatures in Type I X-ray Bursts: prospects for future missions

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          Abstract

          Type I X-ray bursts and superbursts from accreting neutron stars illuminate the accretion disk and produce a reflection signal that evolves as the burst fades. Examining the evolution of reflection features in the spectra will give insight into the burst-disk interaction, a potentially powerful probe of accretion disk physics. At present, reflection has been observed during only two bursts of exceptional duration. We investigate the detectability of reflection signatures with four of the latest well-studied X-ray observatory concepts: Hitomi, NICER, Athena, and LOFT. Burst spectra are modeled for different values for the flux, temperature, and the disk ionization parameter, which are representative for most known bursts and sources. The effective area and through-put of a Hitomi-like telescope are insufficient for characterizing burst reflection features. NICER and Athena will detect reflection signatures in Type I bursts with peak fluxes \(\ge 10^{-7.5}\) erg cm\(^{-2}\) s\(^{-1}\), and also effectively constrain the reflection parameters for bright bursts with fluxes of \(10^{-7}\) erg cm\(^{-2}\) s\(^{-1}\) in exposures of several seconds. Thus, these observatories will provide crucial new insight into the interaction of accretion flows and X-ray bursts. For sources with low line-of-sight absorption, the wide band-pass of these instruments allows for the detection of soft X-ray reflection features, which are sensitive to the disk metallicity and density. The large collecting area that is part of the LOFT design would revolutionize the field by tracing the evolution of the accretion geometry in detail throughout short bursts.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          2016-05-19
          Article
          10.3847/0004-637X/826/1/79
          1605.06113

          http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

          Custom metadata
          14 pages, 13 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ
          astro-ph.HE

          High energy astrophysical phenomena

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