QPOs in the time domain: an autocorrelation analysis
Astrophysics Science Division, NASA/Goddard Space Flight
2 University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC/CRESST), Baltimore, MD 21250, USA
3 University Space Research Association, 10211 Wincopin Circle, Suite 620, Columbia, MD 21044, USA
4 Columbia University, Department of Mechanical Engineering, New York, NY 10027, USA
Accepted: 7 September 2010
Context. Motivated by the recent proposal that one can obtain quasi-periodic oscillations (QPOs) by photon echoes manifesting as non-trivial features in the autocorrelation function (ACF), we study the ACFs of the light curves of three accreting black hole candidates and a neutron star already known to exhibit QPOs namely, GRS 1915+105, XTE J1550-564, XTE J1859+226 and Cygnus X-2.
Aims. We present a comparative study of the timing properties of these systems in the frequency and time domain in search for similarities/differences that may provide clues to the physics underlying the QPO phenomenon.
Methods. We compute and focus on the form of the ACFs in search of systematics or specific temporal properties at the time scales associated with the known QPO frequencies in comparison with the corresponding PDS.
Results. Even within our small object sample we find both similarities as well as significant and subtle differences in the form of the ACFs both amongst black holes and between black holes and neutron stars to warrant a closer look at the QPO phenomenon in the time domain: the QPO features manifest as an oscillatory behavior of the ACF at lags near zero; the oscillation damps exponentially on time scales equal to the inverse QPO width to a level of a percent or so. In black holes this oscillatory behavior is preserved and easily discerned at much longer lags while this is not the case for the neutron star system Cyg X-2. The ACF of GRS 1915+105 provides an exception to this general behavior in that its decay is linear in time indicating an undamped oscillation of coherent phase. We present simple ad hoc models that reproduce these diverse time domain behaviors and we speculate that their origin is the phase coherence of the underlying oscillation.
Conclusions. It appears plausible that time domain analyses, complementary to the more common frequency domain ones, could impose tighter constraints and provide clues for the driving mechanisms behind the QPO phenomenon.
Key words: black hole physics / stars: oscillations / X-rays: stars / binaries: general / X-rays: binaries
© ESO, 2010