A complete X-ray spectral coverage of the 2010 May–June outbursts of Circinus X-1⋆
1 Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Palermo, via Archirafi 36, 90123 Palermo, Italy
2 ISDC Science Data Center for Astrophysics of the University of Geneva, chemin d’Ecogia, 16, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
3 Dipartimento di Fisica, Università degli Studi di Cagliari, SP Monserrato-Sestu, KM 0.7, 09042 Monserrato, Italy
4 Institut de Ciències de l’Espai (IEEC-CSIC), Facultat de Ciències, Campus UAB, Torre C5, Pares, 2da Planta, 08193- Bellaterra, Spain
5 INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Cagliari, Poggio dei Pini, Strada 54, 09012 Capoterra, Italy
Received: 4 December 2011
Accepted: 7 April 2012
Context. Circinus X-1 is a neutron-star-accreting X-ray binary in a wide (Porb = 16.6 d), eccentric orbit. After two years of relatively low X-ray luminosity, in May 2010 Circinus X-1 went into outburst, reaching 0.4 Crab flux. This outburst lasted for about two orbital cycles and was followed by another shorter and fainter outburst in June.
Aims. We focus here on the broadband X-ray spectral evolution of the source as it spans about three order of magnitudes in flux. We attempt to relate luminosity, spectral shape, local absorption, and orbital phase.
Methods. We use multiple Rossi-XTE/PCA (3.0−25 keV) and Swift/XRT (1.0−9.0 keV) observations and a 20 ks long Chandra/HETGS observation (1.0−9.0 keV), to comprehensively track the spectral evolution of the source during all the outbursting phases. These observations were taken every two/three days and cover about four orbital cycles. The PCA data mostly cover the major outburst, the XRT data monitor the declining phase of the major outburst and all the phases of the minor outburst, and Chandra data provide an essential snapshot of the end of this overall outbursting phase.
Results. The X-ray spectrum can be satisfactorily described by a thermal Comptonization model with variable neutral local absorption in all phases of the outburst. No other additive component is statistically required. The first outburst decays linearly, with an ankle in the light curve as the flux decreases below ~5 × 10-10 erg cm-2 s-1. At the same time, the source shows a clear spectral state transition from an optically thick to an optically thin state. While the characteristics of the first, bright, outburst can be interpreted within the disk-instability scenario, the following, minor, outburst shows peculiarities that cannot be easily reconciled in this framework.
Key words: X-rays: binaries / X-rays: individuals: Circinus X-1 / accretion, accretion disks / line: profiles
Tables 1–3 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2012