Volume 619, November 2018
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||15 November 2018|
Accretion heated atmospheres of X-ray bursting neutron stars
Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Kepler Center for Astro and Particle Physics, Universität Tübingen, Sand 1, 72076
2 Astronomy Department, Kazan (Volga region) Federal University, Kremlyovskaya str. 18, 420008 Kazan, Russia
3 Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Profsoyuznaya str. 84/32, 117997 Moscow, Russia
4 Tuorla Observatory, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 20014 University of Turku, Finland
5 Nordita, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University, Roslagstullsbacken 23, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
Accepted: 29 August 2018
Some thermonuclear (type I) X-ray bursts at the neutron star surfaces in low-mass X-ray binaries take place during hard persistent states of the systems. Spectral evolution of these bursts is well described by the atmosphere model of a passively cooling neutron star when the burst luminosity is high enough. The observed spectral evolution deviates from the model predictions when the burst luminosity drops below a critical value of 20–70% of the maximum luminosity. The amplitude of the deviations and the critical luminosity correlate with the persistent luminosity, which leads us to suggest that these deviations are induced by the additional heating of the accreted particles. We present a method for computation of the neutron star atmosphere models heated by accreted particles assuming that their energy is released via Coulomb interactions with electrons. We computed the temperature structures and the emergent spectra of the atmospheres of various chemical compositions and investigate the dependence of the results on the velocity of accreted particles, their temperature and the penetration angle. We show that the heated atmosphere develops two different regions. The upper one is the hot (20–100 keV) corona-like surface layer cooled by Compton scattering, and the deeper, almost isothermal optically thick region with a temperature of a few keV. The emergent spectra correspondingly have two components: a blackbody with the temperature close to that of the isothermal region and a hard Comptonized component (a power law with an exponential decay). Their relative contribution depends on the ratio of the energy dissipation rate of the accreted particles to the intrinsic flux from the neutron star surface. These spectra deviate strongly from those of undisturbed, passively cooling neutron star atmospheres, with the main differences being the presence of a high-energy tail and a strong excess in the low-energy part of the spectrum. They also lack the iron absorption edge, which is visible in the spectra of undisturbed low-luminosity atmospheres with solar chemical composition. Using the computed spectra, we obtained the dependences of the dilution and color-correction factors as functions of relative luminosities for pure helium and solar abundance atmospheres. We show that the helium model atmosphere heated by accretion corresponding to 5% of the Eddington luminosity describes well the late stages of the X-ray bursts in 4U 1820−30.
Key words: accretion / accretion disks / stars: neutron / stars: atmospheres / methods: numerical / X-rays: binaries / X-rays: bursts
© ESO 2018
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