Long-term optical variability of high-mass X-ray binaries
IESL, Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas,
2 Physics Department, University of Crete, 71003 Heraklion, Greece
3 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
4 Observatorio Astronómico, Universidad de Valencia, 46100 Burjassot, Spain
5 Physics and Astronomy department, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Received: 8 February 2016
Accepted: 24 March 2016
Context. High-mass X-ray binaries are bright X-ray sources. The high-energy emission is caused by the accretion of matter from the massive companion onto a neutron star. The accreting material comes from either the strong stellar wind in binaries with supergiant companions or the cirscumstellar disk in Be/X-ray binaries. In either case, the Hα line stands out as the main source of information about the state of the accreting material.
Aims. We present the results of our monitoring program to study the long-term variability of the Hα line in high-mass X-ray binaries. Our aim is to characterise the optical variability timescales and study the interaction between the neutron star and the accreting material.
Methods. We fitted the Hα line with Gaussian profiles and obtained the line parameters and equivalent width. The peak separation in split profiles was used to determine the disk velocity law and estimate the disk radius. The relative intensity of the two peaks (V/R ratio) allowed us to investigate the distribution of gas particles in the disk. The equivalent width was used to characterise the degree of variability of the systems. We also studied the variability of the Hα line in correlation with the X-ray activity.
Results. Our results can be summarised as follows: i) we find that Be/X-ray binaries with narrow orbits are more variable than systems with long orbital periods; ii) we show that a Keplerian distribution of gas particles provides a good description of the disks in Be/X-ray binaries, as it does in classical Be stars; iii) a decrease in the Hα equivalent width is generally observed after major X-ray outbursts; iv) we confirm that the Hα equivalent width correlates with disk radius; v) while systems with supergiant companions display multi-structured profiles, most of the Be/X-ray binaries show, at some epoch, double-peak asymmetric profiles, which indicates that density inhomogeneities is a common property in the disk of Be/X-ray binaries; vi) the profile variability (V/R ratio) timescales are shorter and the Hα equivalent widths are smaller in Be/X-ray binaries than in isolated Be stars; and vii) we provide new evidence that the disk in Be/X-ray binaries is, on average, denser than in classical Be stars.
Conclusions. We carried out the most complete optical spectroscopic study of the global properties of high-mass X-ray binaries with the analysis of more than 1100 spectra from 20 sources. Our results provide further evidence for the truncation of the disk in Be/X-ray binaries. We conclude that the interaction between the compact object and the Be-type star works in two directions: the massive companion provides the source of matter for accretion, affecting the surroundings of the compact object, and the continuous revolution of the neutron star around the optical counterpart also produces the truncation of the Be star’s equatorial disk.
Key words: stars: emission-line, Be / stars: massive / X-rays: binaries
The reduced spectra as FITS files are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (18.104.22.168) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/590/A122
© ESO, 2016