Letter to the Editor
Discovery of accretion-driven pulsations in the prolonged low X-ray luminosity state of the Be/X-ray transient GX 304–1
Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Accepted: 27 November 2018
We present our Swift monitoring campaign of the slowly rotating neutron star Be/X-ray transient GX 304–1 (spin period of ∼275 s) when the source was not in outburst. We found that between its type I outbursts, the source recurrently exhibits a slowly decaying low-luminosity state (with luminosities of 1034 − 35 erg s−1). This behaviour is very similar to what has been observed for another slowly rotating system, GRO J1008–57. For that source, this low-luminosity state has been explained in terms of accretion from a non-ionised (“cold”) accretion disc. Because of the many similarities between the two systems, we suggest that GX 304–1 enters a similar accretion regime between its outbursts. The outburst activity of GX 304–1 ceased in 2016. Our continued monitoring campaign shows that the source is in a quasi-stable low-luminosity state (with luminosities a few factors lower than previously seen) for at least one year now. Using our NuSTAR observation in this state, we found pulsations at the spin period, demonstrating that the X-ray emission is due to accretion of matter onto the neutron star surface. If the accretion geometry during this quasi-stable state is the same as during the cold-disc state, then matter indeed reaches the surface (as predicted) during this later state. We discuss our results in the context of the cold-disc accretion model.
Key words: X-rays: binaries / stars: neutron / accretion / accretion disks / pulsars: individual: GX 304–1
© ESO 2018