Accretion regimes in the X-ray pulsar 4U 1901+03
1 IESL, Foundation for Reseach and Technology-Hellas, 71110 Heraklion, Greece
2 Physics Department, University of Crete, 71003 Heraklion, Greece
Received: 28 June 2016
Accepted: 17 August 2016
Context. The source 4U 1901+03 is a high-mass X-ray pulsar than went into outburst in 2003. Observation performed with the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer showed spectral and timing variability, including the detection of flares, quasi-periodic oscillations, complex changes in the pulse profiles, and pulse phase dependent spectral variability.
Aims. We re-analysed the data covering the 2003 X-ray outburst and focused on several aspects of the variability that have not been discussed so far. These are the 10 keV feature and the X-ray spectral states and their association with accretion regimes, including the transit to the propeller state at the end of the outburst.
Methods. We extracted light curves and spectra using data from the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer. Low time resolution light curves were used to create hardness-intensity diagrams and study daily changes in flux. High time resolution light curves were used to create pulse profiles. An average spectrum per observation allowed us to investigate the evolution of the spectral parameters with time.
Results. We find that 4U 1901+03 went through three accretion regimes over the course of the X-ray outburst. At the peak of the outburst and for a very short time, the X-ray flux may have overcome the critical limit that marks the formation of a radiative shock at a certain distance above the neutron star surface. Most of the time, however, the source is in the subcritical regime. Only at the end of the outburst, when the luminosity decreased below ~1036 (d/ 10 kpc)2 erg s-1, did the source enter the propeller regime. Evidence for the existence of these regimes comes from the pulse profiles, the shape of the hardness-intensity diagram, and the correlation of various spectral parameters with the flux. The 10 keV feature appears to strongly depend on the X-ray flux and on the pulse phase, which opens the possibility to interpret this feature as a cyclotron line.
Key words: stars: emission-line, Be / X-rays: binaries / stars: neutron
© ESO, 2016