EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 476, Number 3, December IV 2007
Page(s) 1297 - 1305
Section Stellar structure and evolution
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20077619

A&A 476, 1297-1305 (2007)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20077619

Using GRO J1655-40 to test Swift/BAT as a monitor for bright hard X-ray sources

F. Senziani1, 2, 3, G. Novara1, 2, A. De Luca2, 4, P. A. Caraveo2, T. Belloni5, and G. F. Bignami6, 4

1  Università di Pavia, Dipartimento di Fisica Teorica e Nucleare, via Ugo Bassi 6, 27100 Pavia (I), Italy
    e-mail: senziani@iasf-milano.inaf.it
2  INAF-Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, via Bassini 15, 20133 Milano (I), Italy
3  Université Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse, France
4  Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS), V. le Lungo Ticino Sforza 56, 27100 Pavia (I), Italy
5  INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, via E. Bianchi 46, 23807 Merate (LC), Italy
6  Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, via Liegi 26, 00198 Roma, Italy

(Received 6 April 2007 / Accepted 21 September 2007)

Context.While waiting for new gamma-ray burst detections, the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) onboard Swift covers each day ~50% of the sky in the hard X-ray band ("Survey data"). The large field of view (FOV), high sensitivity and good angular resolution make BAT a potentially powerful all-sky hard X-ray monitor, provided that mask-related systematics can be properly accounted for.
Aims.We have developed and tested a complete procedure entirely based on public Swift/BAT software tools to analyse BAT Survey data, aimed at assessing the flux and spectral variability of bright sources in the 15-150 keV energy range.
Methods.Detailed tests of the capabilities of our procedure were performed focusing, in particular, on the reliability of spectral measurements over the entire BAT FOV. First, we analyzed a large set of Crab observations, spread over ~7 months. Next, we studied the case of GRO J1655-40 , a strongly variable source, which experienced a 9-month long outburst, beginning on February 2005. The outburst was systematically monitored with the well-calibrated PCA and HEXTE instruments onboard the RXTE mission. Due to the good BAT temporal coverage of the source, we have been able to cross-check BAT light-curves with simultaneous HEXTE ones.
Results.The Crab tests have shown that our procedure recovers both the flux and the source spectral shape over the whole FOV of the BAT instrument. Moreover, by cross-checking GRO J1655-40 light-curves obtained with BAT and HEXTE, we found the spectral and flux evolution of the outburst to be in very good agreement. Using our procedure, BAT reproduces HEXTE fluxes within a 10-15% uncertainty with a $3\sigma$ sensitivity of ~20 mCrab for an on-axis source, thus establishing its ability to monitor the evolution of relatively bright hard X-rays sources.

Key words: methods: data analysis -- gamma rays: observations -- X-rays: binaries -- X-rays: individuals: GRO J1655-40

© ESO 2007