EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 400, Number 2, March III 2003
Page(s) 633 - 641
Section Stellar atmospheres
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20030038

A&A 400, 633-641 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20030038

Burst-properties as a function of mass accretion rate in GX 3+1

P. R. den Hartog1, 2, J. J. M in 't Zand1, 2, E. Kuulkers1, 2, R. Cornelisse1, 2, J. Heise2, 1, A. Bazzano3, M. Cocchi3, L. Natalucci3 and P. Ubertini3

1  Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, PO Box 80000, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
2  SRON National Institute for Space Research, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands
3  Istituto Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, CNR, via Fosso del Cavaliere 100, 00133 Roma, Italy

(Received 16 October 2002 / Accepted 9 January 2003 )

GX 3+1 is a low-mass X-ray binary that is persistently bright since its discovery in 1964. It was found to be an X-ray burster twenty years ago proving that the compact object in this system is a neutron star. The burst rate is so low that only 18 bursts were reported prior to 1996. The Wide Field Cameras on BeppoSAX have, through a dedicated monitoring program on the Galactic center region, increased the number of X-ray bursts from GX 3+1 by 61. Since GX 3+1 exhibits a slow (order of years) modulation in the persistent flux of about 50%, these observations opens up the unique possibility to study burst properties as a function of mass accretion rate for very low burst rates. This is the first time that bursts are detected from GX 3+1 in the high state. From the analysis we learn that all bursts are short with e-folding decay times smaller than 10 s. Therefore, all bursts are due to unstable helium burning. Furthermore, the burst rate drops sixfold in a fairly narrow range of 2-20 keV flux; we discuss possible origins for this.

Key words: accretion, accretion discs -- binaries: close -- stars: individual: GX 3+1 -- stars: neutron -- X-rays: bursts

Offprint request: P. R. den Hartog, P.R.den.Hartog@sron.nl

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