Continuous monitoring of pulse period variations in Hercules X-1 using Swift/BAT
Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Universität Tübingen (IAAT), Sand 1, 72076 Tübingen, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow University, 119992 Moscow, Russia
Accepted: 30 July 2009
Context. Monitoring of pulse period variations in accreting binary pulsars is an important tool to study the interaction between the magnetosphere of the neutron star and the accretion disk. While the X-ray flux of the brightest X-ray pulsars have been successfully monitored over many years (e.g. with RXTE/ASM, CGRO/BATSE, Swift/BAT), the possibility to monitor their pulse timing properties continuously has so far been very limited.
Aims. In our work we show that the Swift/BAT observations can be used to monitor coherent pulsations of bright X-ray sources and use Swift archival data to study one of the most enigmatic X-ray pulsars, Hercules X-1. A quasi-continuous monitoring of the pulse period and the pulse period derivative of an X-ray pulsar, here Her X-1, is achieved over a long time (≳4 yr). We compare our observational results with predictions of accretion theory and use them to test different aspects of the physical model of the system.
Methods. In our analysis we use the data accumulated with Swift/BAT starting from the beginning of 2005 (shortly after launch) until the present time. To search for pulsations and for their subsequent analysis we used the count rate measured by the BAT detector in the entire field of view.
Results. The slope of the correlation between the locally determined spin-up rate and the X-ray luminosity is measured for Her X-1 and found to be in agreement with predictions of basic accretion torque theory. The observed behaviour of the pulse period together with the previously measured secular decrease of the system's orbital period is discussed in the framework of a model assuming ejection of matter close to the inner boundary of the accretion disk.
Key words: X-rays: binaries / stars: neutron / accretion, accretion disks
© ESO, 2009