EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 377, Number 1, October I 2001
Page(s) 161 - 174
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011083

A&A 377, 161-174 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011083

A natural explanation for periodic X-ray outbursts in Be/X-ray binaries

A. T. Okazaki1, 2 and I. Negueruela3

1  Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai-Gakuen University, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo 062-8605, Japan
2  Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK
3  Observatoire de Strasbourg, 11 rue de l'Université, Strasbourg 67000, France

(Received 1 June 2001 / Accepted 23 July 2001)

When applied to Be/X-ray binaries, the viscous decretion disc model, which can successfully account for most properties of Be stars, naturally predicts the truncation of the circumstellar disc. The distance at which the circumstellar disc is truncated depends mainly on the orbital parameters and the viscosity. In systems with low eccentricity, the disc is expected to be truncated at the 3:1 resonance radius, for which the gap between the disc outer radius and the critical lobe radius of the Be star is so wide that, under normal conditions, the neutron star cannot accrete enough gas at periastron passage to show periodic X-ray outbursts (type I outbursts). These systems will display only occasional giant X-ray outbursts (type II outbursts). On the other hand, in systems with high orbital eccentricity, the disc truncation occurs at a much higher resonance radius, which is very close to or slightly beyond the critical lobe radius at periastron unless the viscosity is very low. In these systems, disc truncation cannot be efficient, allowing the neutron star to capture gas from the disc at every periastron passage and display type I outbursts regularly. In contrast to the rather robust results for systems with low eccentricity and high eccentricity, the result for systems with moderate eccentricity depends on rather subtle details. Systems in which the disc is truncated in the vicinity of the critical lobe will regularly display type I outbursts, whereas those with the disc significantly smaller than the critical lobe will show only type II outbursts under normal conditions and temporary type I outbursts when the disc is strongly disturbed. In Be/X-ray binaries, material will be accreted via the first Lagrangian point with low velocities relative to the neutron star and carrying high angular momentum. This may result in the temporary formation of accretion discs during type I outbursts, something that seems to be confirmed by observations.

Key words: stars: circumstellar matter -- emission-line, Be -- binaries: close -- neutron -- X-ray: stars, bursts

Offprint request: A. T. Okazaki, okazaki@elsa.hokkai-s-u.ac.jp

SIMBAD Objects

© ESO 2001