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Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik

Abteilung Astronomie

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Preprint 07/11

Pulse-amplitude-resolved spectroscopy of bright accreting pulsars: indication of two accretion regimes

D. Klochkov (1), R. Staubert (1), A. Santangelo (1), R. E. Rothschild (2), and C. Ferrigno (3)

(1) Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Universität Tübingen (IAAT), Sand 1, 72076 Tu ̈bingen, Germany
(2) Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA
(3) ISDC Data Center for Astrophysics of the University of Geneva chemin d’E ́ cogia, 16 1290 Versoix, Switzerland

A&A 53 (2011),126

Abstract. Context: In addition to coherent pulsation, many accreting neutron stars exhibit flaring activity and strong aperiodic variability on time scales comparable to or shorter than their pulsation period. This behavior shows that the accretion flow in the vicinity of the accretor must be highly non-stationary. Observational study of this phenomenon is often problematic because it requires very high statistics of X-ray data and a specific analysis technique.
Aims: In our research we used high-resolution data taken with RXTE and INTEGRAL on a sample of bright transient and persistent pulsars to perform an in-depth study of their variability on time scales comparable to the pulsation period - "pulse-to-pulse variability".
Methods: The high-quality data allowed us to collect individual pulses of different amplitude and explore their X-ray spectrum as a function of pulse amplitude. The described approach allowed us for the first time to study the luminosity dependence of pulsars' X-ray spectra in observations where the averaged (over many pulse cycles) luminosity of the source remains constant.
Results: In all studied pulsars we reveal significant spectral changes as a function of the pulse height both in the continuum and in the cyclotron absorption features. The sources appear to form two groups that show different dependencies of the spectrum on pulse height. We interpret this division as a manifestation of two distinct accretion regimes that are at work in different pulsars.
Key words: X-ray binaries – neutron stars – accretion

Preprint (392 kb PDF file including figures)
Astrophysics (astro-ph): 1107.2202

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