Volume 640, August 2020
|Number of page(s)||21|
|Section||Numerical methods and codes|
|Published online||26 August 2020|
The EXOD search for faint transients in XMM-Newton observations: Method and discovery of four extragalactic Type I X-ray bursters
Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2 ASTRON, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, Oude Hoogeveensedijk 4, 7991 PD Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
3 Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, IRAP, Toulouse, France
4 CNRS, IRAP, 9 Av. colonel Roche, BP 44346, 31028 Toulouse CEDEX 4, France
5 IRIT, Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse CEDEX 9, France
Accepted: 16 May 2020
Context. The observations carried out with XMM-Newton have produced a very extensive X-ray source catalogue in which the standard pipeline determines the variability of sufficiently bright sources through χ2 and fractional variability tests. Faint sources, however, are not automatically checked for variability, and this means that faint, short timescale transients are overlooked. From dedicated X-ray searches, as well as optical and radio archive searches, we know that some such dim sources can still be identified with high confidence.
Aims. Our goal is to find new faint, fast transients in XMM-Newton EPIC-pn observations. To that end we created the EPIC-pn XMM-Newton outburst detector (EXOD) algorithm, which we run on the EPIC-pn full-frame data available in the 3XMM-DR8 catalogue.
Methods. In EXOD, we computed the variability of the whole field of view by first binning in time the counts detected in each pixel of the detector. We next computed the difference between the median and maximal number of counts in each time bin and pixel to detect variability. We applied EXOD to 5751 observations in the full frame mode and compared the variability of the detected sources to the standard χ2 and Kolmogorov–Smirnov (KS) variability tests.
Results. The algorithm is able to detect periodic and aperiodic variability, with both short and long flares. Of the sources detected by EXOD, 60−95% are also shown to be variable by the standard χ2 and KS tests. EXOD computes the variability over the entire field of view faster than the light curve generation takes for all the individual sources. We detect a total of 2961 X-ray variable sources. After removing the spurious detections, we obtain a net number of 2536 variable sources. Of these we investigate the nature of 35 sources with no previously confirmed classification. Amongst the new sources, we find stellar flares and AGNs, in addition to four extragalactic type I X-ray bursters that double the known neutron-star population in M 31.
Conclusions. This algorithm is a powerful tool for the prompt detection of interesting variable sources in XMM-Newton observations. EXOD also detects fast transients that other variability tests would classify as non-variable due to their short duration and low number of counts. This is of increasing importance for the multi-messenger detection of transient sources. Finally, EXOD allows us to identify the nature of compact objects through their variability and to detect rare compact objects. We demonstrate this through the discovery of four extragalactic neutron-star low-mass X-ray binaries, doubling the number of known neutron stars in M 31.
Key words: methods: data analysis / X-rays: general / X-rays: binaries / X-rays: bursts / stars: flare
© ESO 2020
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