Volume 591, July 2016
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Published online||06 June 2016|
A new model for the X-ray continuum of the magnetized accreting pulsars
INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo dell’Osservatorio
2 ISDC, Chemin d’Écogia 16, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
3 Department of Physics and Astronomy, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
Received: 26 August 2015
Accepted: 27 January 2016
Context. Accreting highly magnetized pulsars in binary systems are among the brightest X-ray emitters in our Galaxy. Although a number of high-quality broad-band (0.1–100 keV) X-ray observations are available, the spectral energy distribution of these sources is usually investigated by adopting pure phenomenological models rather than models linked to the physics of accretion.
Aims. In this paper, a detailed spectral study of the X-ray emission recorded from the high-mass X-ray binary pulsars Cen X-3, 4U 0115+63, and Her X-1 is carried out by using BeppoSAX and joined Suzaku +NuStar data, together with an advanced version of the compmag model, which provides a physical description of the high-energy emission from accreting pulsars, including the thermal and bulk Comptonization of cyclotron and bremsstrahlung seed photons along the neutron star accretion column.
Methods. The compmag model is based on an iterative method for solving second-order partial differential equations, whose convergence algorithm has been improved and consolidated during the preparation of this paper.
Results. Our analysis shows that the broad-band X-ray continuum of all considered sources can be self-consistently described by the compmag model. The cyclotron absorption features (not included in the model) can be accounted for by using Gaussian components. From the fits of the compmag model to the data we inferred the physical properties of the accretion columns in all sources, finding values reasonably close to those theoretically expected according to our current understanding of accretion in highly magnetized neutron stars.
Conclusions. The updated version of the compmag model has been tailored to the physical processes that are known to occur in the columns of highly magnetized accreting neutron stars and it can thus provide a better understanding of the high-energy radiation from these sources. The availability of broad-band high-quality X-ray data, such as those provided by BeppoSAX in the past and currently from NuStar and other facilities, is crucial to fully exploit the potentialities of the model. The advent of the Astro-H mission, endowed with an unprecedented combination of high sensitivity and X-ray broad-band coverage, provides good perspectives to improve our understanding of accretion onto highly magnetized neutron stars through physical models like the one adopted here.
Key words: X-rays: binaries / magnetic fields / radiative transfer / pulsars: individual: Cen X-3 / pulsars: individual: 4U 0115+63 / pulsars: individual: Her X-1
© ESO, 2016
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