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Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik

Abteilung Astronomie

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Preprint 05/08

Absorption features in the spectra of X-ray bursting neutron stars

Thomas Rauch (1), Valery Suleimanov (1, 2), Klaus Werner (1)

(1) Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Kepler Center for Astro and Particle Physics, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany,
(2) Kazan State University, Kazan, Russia

To be published in: A&A

Abstract. The discovery of photospheric absorption lines in XMM-Newton spectra of the X-ray bursting neutron star in EXO0748-676 by Cottam and collaborators allows us to constrain the neutron star mass-radius ratio from the measured gravitational redshift. A radius of R=9-12km for a plausible mass range of M=1.4-1.8Msun was derived by these authors. It has been claimed that the absorption features stem from gravitationally redshifted (z=0.35) n=2-3 lines of H- and He-like iron. We investigate this identification and search for alternatives. We compute LTE and non-LTE neutron-star model atmospheres and detailed synthetic spectra for a wide range of effective temperatures (effective temperatures of 1 - 20MK) and different chemical compositions.
We are unable to confirm the identification of the absorption features in the X-ray spectrum of EXO0748-676 as n=2-3 lines of H- and He-like iron (Fe XXVI and Fe XXV). These are subordinate lines that are predicted by our models to be too weak at any effective temperature. It is more likely that the strongest feature is from the n=2-3 resonance transition in Fe XXIV with a redshift of z=0.24. Adopting this value yields a larger neutron star radius, namely R=12-15km for the mass range M=1.4-1.8Msun, favoring a stiff equation-of-state and excluding mass-radius relations based on exotic matter. Combined with an estimate of the stellar radius R>12.5km from the work of Oezel and collaborators, the z=0.24 value provides a minimum neutron-star mass of M>1.48Msun, instead of M>1.9Msun, when assuming z=0.35.
Key words: Line: formation -- Line: identification -- Scattering -- Stars: individual: EXO 0748-676 -- Stars: neutron -- X-rays: stars

Preprint (691 kb PDF file including figures)
Astrophysics (astro-ph): 0809.2170

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