Volume 642, October 2020
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||06 October 2020|
Monitoring clumpy wind accretion in supergiant fast-X-ray transients with XMM-Newton
Department of Astronomy, University of Geneva, Chemin d’Écogia 16, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
2 INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Via E. Bianchi 46, 23807 Merate, Italy
Accepted: 7 August 2020
Supergiant fast-X-ray transients (SFXTs) are a sub-class of supergiant high-mass X-ray binaries hosting a neutron star accreting from the stellar wind of a massive OB companion. Compared to the classical systems, SFXTs display a pronounced variability in X-rays that has long been (at least partly) ascribed to the presence of clumps in the stellar wind. Here, we report on the first set of results of an ongoing XMM-Newton observational program searching for spectroscopic variability during the X-ray flares and outbursts of the SFXTs. The goal of the paper is to present the observational program and show that the obtained results are in agreement with expectations, with a number of flares (between one and four) generally observed per source and per observation (20 ks-long, on average). We base our work on a systematic and uniform analysis method optimized to consistently search for spectral signatures of a variable absorption column density, as well as other parameters of the spectral continuum. Our preliminary results show that the program is successful and the outcomes of the analysis support previous findings that most of the X-ray flares seem associated to the presence of a massive structure approaching and being accreted by the compact object. However, we cannot rule out that other mechanisms are at work together with clumps to enhance the X-ray variability of SFXTs. This is expected according to current theoretical models. The success of these observations shows that our observational program can be a powerful instrument to deepen our understanding of the X-ray variability in SFXTs. Further observations will help us to obtain a statistically robust sample. This will be required to conduct a systematic analysis of the whole SFXT class with the ultimate goal being to disentangle the roles of the different mechanisms giving rise to these events.
Key words: accretion / accretion disks / stars: neutron / X-rays: binaries
© ESO 2020
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