Volume 604, August 2017
|Number of page(s)||9|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||09 August 2017|
Flux decay during thermonuclear X-ray bursts analysed with the dynamic power-law index method
1 Tuorla ObservatoryDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, University of Turku, Väisäläntie 20, 21500 Piikkiö, Finland
2 Finnish Centre for Astronomy with ESO (FINCA), University of Turku, Väisäläntie 20, 21500 Piikkiö, Finland
3 European Space Astronomy Centre (ESA/ESAC), Science Operations Department, 28691 Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain
4 Nordita, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University, Roslagstullsbacken 23, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
5 University of Oxford, Department of Physics, Astrophysics, Denys Wilkinson Building, Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3RH, UK
6 ESA/ESTEC, Keplerlaan 1, 2201 AZ Noordwijk, The Netherlands
7 Department of Physics and McGill Space Institute, McGill University, 3550 University Street, Montreal, QC H3A2T8, Canada
8 Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
Received: 20 March 2017
Accepted: 9 May 2017
The cooling of type-I X-ray bursts can be used to probe the nuclear burning conditions in neutron star envelopes. The flux decay of the bursts has been traditionally modelled with an exponential, even if theoretical considerations predict power-law-like decays. We have analysed a total of 540 type-I X-ray bursts from five low-mass X-ray binaries observed with the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer. We grouped the bursts according to the source spectral state during which they were observed (hard or soft), flagging those bursts that showed signs of photospheric radius expansion (PRE). The decay phase of all the bursts were then fitted with a dynamic power-law index method. This method provides a new way of probing the chemical composition of the accreted material. Our results show that in the hydrogen-rich sources the power-law decay index is variable during the burst tails and that simple cooling models qualitatively describe the cooling of presumably helium-rich sources 4U 1728–34 and 3A 1820–303. The cooling in the hydrogen-rich sources 4U 1608–52, 4U 1636–536, and GS 1826–24, instead, is clearly different and depends on the spectral states and whether PRE occurred or not. Especially the hard state bursts behave differently than the models predict, exhibiting a peculiar rise in the cooling index at low burst fluxes, which suggests that the cooling in the tail is much faster than expected. Our results indicate that the drivers of the bursting behaviour are not only the accretion rate and chemical composition of the accreted material, but also the cooling that is somehow linked to the spectral states. The latter suggests that the properties of the burning layers deep in the neutron star envelope might be impacted differently depending on the spectral state.
Key words: stars: neutron / X-rays: binaries / X-rays: bursts / accretion, accretion disks
© ESO, 2017
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