Volume 559, November 2013
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||28 October 2013|
Symbiotic stars in X-rays⋆
1 Instituto de Astronomía y Física del Espacio (IAFE), CC 67 – Suc. 28, C1428ZAA Caba, Argentina
2 Columbia Astrophysics Lab, 550 W120th St., 1027 Pupin Hall, MC 5247 Columbia University, 10027 New York, USA
3 CRESST and X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory, NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
4 Department of Physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA
5 School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Minnesota, 116 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55409, USA
Received: 26 November 2012
Accepted: 30 July 2013
Until recently, symbiotic binary systems in which a white dwarf accretes from a red giant were thought to be mainly a soft X-ray population. Here we describe the detection with the X-ray Telescope (XRT) on the Swift satellite of nine white dwarf symbiotics that were not previously known to be X-ray sources and one that had previously been detected as a supersoft X-ray source. The nine new X-ray detections were the result of a survey of 41 symbiotic stars, and they increase the number of symbiotic stars known to be X-ray sources by approximately 30%. The Swift/XRT telescope detected all of the new X-ray sources at energies greater than 2 keV. Their X-ray spectra are consistent with thermal emission and fall naturally into three distinct groups. The first group contains those sources with a single, highly absorbed hard component that we identify as probably coming from an accretion-disk boundary layer. The second group is composed of those sources with a single, soft X-ray spectral component that probably originates in a region where low-velocity shocks produce X-ray emission, i.e., a colliding-wind region. The third group consists of those sources with both hard and soft X-ray spectral components. We also find that unlike in the optical, where rapid, stochastic brightness variations from the accretion disk typically are not seen, detectable UV flickering is a common property of symbiotic stars. Supporting our physical interpretation of the two X-ray spectral components, simultaneous Swift UV photometry shows that symbiotic stars with harder X-ray emission tend to have stronger UV flickering, which is usually associated with accretion through a disk. To place these new observations in the context of previous work on X-ray emission from symbiotic stars, we modified and extended the α/β/γ classification scheme for symbiotic-star X-ray spectra that was introduced by Muerset et al. based upon observations with the ROSAT satellite, to include a new δ classification for sources with hard X-ray emission from the innermost accretion region. Because we have identified the elusive accretion component in the emission from a sample of symbiotic stars, our results have implications for the understanding of wind-fed mass transfer in wide binaries, and the accretion rate in one class of candidate progenitors of type Ia supernovae.
Key words: binaries: symbiotic / accretion, accretion disks / X-rays: binaries
Tables 1 and 3 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2013
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