Volume 553, May 2013
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||17 May 2013|
RX J0440.9 + 4431: a persistent Be/X-ray binary in outburst
1 ISDC Data Center for Astrophysics, Université de Genève, chemin d’Écogia 16, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
2 Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Ferrara, via Saragat 1, 44100 Ferrara, Italy
3 CRESST & University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA
4 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Astrophysics Science Division, Code 661, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
5 IAAT, Abt. Astronomie, Universität Tübingen, Sand 1, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
6 ESAC, ISOC, Villañueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain
Received: 7 January 2013
Accepted: 15 March 2013
The persistent Be/X-ray binary RX J0440.9 + 4431 flared in 2010 and 2011 and has been followed by various X-ray facilities (Swift, RXTE, XMM-Newton, and INTEGRAL). We studied the source timing and spectral properties as a function of its X-ray luminosity to investigate the transition from normal to flaring activity and the dynamical properties of the system. We have determined the orbital period from the long-term Swift/BAT light curve, but our determinations of the spin-period are not precise enough to constrain any orbital solution. The source spectrum can always be described by a bulk-motion Comptonization model of black body seed photons attenuated by a moderate photoelectric absorption. At the highest luminosity, we measured a curvature of the spectrum, which we attribute to a significant contribution of the radiation pressure in the accretion process. This allows us to estimate that the transition from a bulk-motion-dominated flow to a radiatively dominated one happens at a luminosity of ~2 × 1036 erg s-1. The luminosity dependency of the size of the black body emission region is found to be rBB ∝ LX0.39±0.02 . This suggests that either matter accreting onto the neutron star hosted in RX J0440.9 + 4431 penetrates through closed magnetic field lines at the border of the compact object magnetosphere or that the structure of the neutron star magnetic field is more complicated than a simple dipole close to the surface.
Key words: X-rays: binaries / X-rays: individuals: RX J0440.9+4431 / stars: neutron
© ESO, 2013
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