EDP Sciences
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Volume 401, Number 1, April I 2003
Page(s) 313 - 323
Section Stellar atmospheres
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20030120

A&A 401, 313-323 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20030120

The mass of the neutron star in Vela X-1 and tidally induced non-radial oscillations in GP Vel

H. Quaintrell1, A. J. Norton1, T. D. C. Ash1, 2, P. Roche1, 3, 4, B. Willems1, T. R. Bedding5, I. K. Baldry5, 6 and R. P. Fender7

1  Department of Physics and Astronomy, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
2  Kildrummy Technologies Ltd, 1 Mill Lane, Lerwick, Shetland, ZE1 0AZ, UK
3  Earth and Space Sciences, School of Applied Sciences, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd CF37 1DL, UK
4  Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Wales, Cardiff CF24 3YB, UK
5  School of Physics, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia
6  Department of Physics and Astronomy, The Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-2686, USA
7  Sterrenkundig Instituut "Anton Pannekoek", Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

(Received 30 September 2002 / Accepted 20 January 2003)

We report new radial velocity observations of GP Vel / HD 77581, the optical companion to the eclipsing X-ray pulsar Vela X-1. Using data spanning more than two complete orbits of the system, we detect evidence for tidally induced non-radial oscillations on the surface of GP Vel, apparent as peaks in the power spectrum of the residuals to the radial velocity curve fit. By removing the effect of these oscillations (to first order) and binning the radial velocities, we have determined the semi-amplitude of the radial velocity curve of GP Vel to be $K_{\rm o} = 22.6 \pm 1.5$ km s -1. Given the accurately measured semi-amplitude of the pulsar's orbit, the mass ratio of the system is $0.081 \pm 0.005$. We are able to set upper and lower limits on the masses of the component stars as follows. Assuming GP Vel fills its Roche lobe then the inclination angle of the system, i, is $70.1^{\circ} \pm
2.6^{\circ}$ . In this case we obtain the masses of the two stars as $M_{\rm x}
= 2.27 \pm 0.17~M_{\odot}$ for the neutron star and $M_{\rm o} = 27.9 \pm
1.3~M_{\odot}$ for GP Vel. Conversely, assuming the inclination angle is $i=90^{\circ}$, the ratio of the radius of GP Vel to the radius of its Roche lobe is $\beta = 0.89 \pm 0.03$ and the masses of the two stars are $M_{\rm x}
= 1.88 \pm 0.13~M_{\odot}$ and $M_{\rm o} = 23.1 \pm 0.2~M_{\odot}$. A range of solutions between these two sets of limits is also possible, corresponding to other combinations of i and $\beta$. In addition, we note that if the zero phase of the radial velocity curve is allowed as a free parameter, rather than constrained by the X-ray ephemeris, a significantly improved fit is obtained with an amplitude of $21.2 \pm 0.7$ km s -1 and a phase shift of $0.033 \pm 0.007$ in true anomaly. The apparent shift in the zero phase of the radial velocity curve may indicate the presence of an additional radial velocity component at the orbital period. This may be another manifestation of the tidally induced non-radial oscillations and provides an additional source of uncertainty in the determination of the orbital radial velocity amplitude.

Key words: binaries: close -- stars: neutron -- stars: individual: Vela X-1 -- stars: individual: GP Vel -- stars: individual: HD 77581 -- stars: fundamental parameters

Offprint request: A. J. Norton, a.j.norton@open.ac.uk

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