EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 371, Number 3, June I 2001
Page(s) 1056 - 1064
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20010476

A&A 371, 1056-1064 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20010476

On the nature of the hard X-ray source 4U 2206+54

I. Negueruela1, 2, 3, 4 and P. Reig5, 6

1  Observatoire de Strasbourg, 11 rue de l'Université, 67000 Strasbourg, France
2  SAX SDC, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, c/o Telespazio, via Corcolle 19, 00131 Rome, Italy
3  Astrophysics Research Group, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom St., Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK
4  Physics and Astronomy Department, Southampton University, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
5  Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas, 711 10, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
6  Physics Department, University of Crete, 710 03 Heraklion, Crete, Greece

(Received 8 December 2000 /Accepted 26 March 2001 )

The recent discovery of a ~ $9.5 {\rm d}$ period in the X-ray lightcurve of the massive X-ray binary 4U 2206+54 has opened the possibility that it is a Be/X-ray binary with an unusually close orbit, which, together with its low intrinsic luminosity, suggests that the system is actually a Be + WD binary, in which a white dwarf accretes material from the dense circumstellar disc surrounding a classical Be star. In this paper we present new X-ray observations and for the first time high-resolution optical spectroscopy of the source. We show that both the X-ray behaviour and the characteristics of the optical counterpart, BD $ +53^{\circ} $2790, are more consistent with a neutron star accreting from the wind of an early-type star. The X-ray lightcurve shows irregular flaring and no indications of pulsations, while the very high hydrogen column density supports accretion from a dense wind. BD $ +53^{\circ} $2790 is shown not to be a classical Be star, as believed until now, but rather a very peculiar late O-type active star, exhibiting emission components in the HeII lines, complex spectral variability and strong wind resonance lines in the ultraviolet. Though many of the characteristics of the spectrum resemble those of the He-rich stars, the absence of HeI variability makes a connection unlikely. The spectrum is compatible with a composite of two stars of similar spectral type, though circumstantial evidence points to a single very peculiar active early-type star. This adds weight to the growing evidence that the traditional subdivisions of supergiant and Be/X-ray binaries fail to cover the whole phenomenology of massive X-ray binaries.

Key words: stars: binaries: general -- stars: early-type -- X-rays: stars

Offprint request: I. Negueruela, ignacio@astro.u-strasbg.fr

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