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Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik

Abteilung Astronomie

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Preprint B/03

Long term variability of Cygnus X-1: I. X-ray spectral-temporal correlations in the hard state

K. Pottschmidt (1), J. Wilms (1), M. A. Nowak (2), G. G. Pooley (3), T. Gleissner (1), W. A. Heindl (4), D. M. Smith (5), R. Remillard (2) and R. Staubert (1)

1 Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik - Astronomie, University of Tübingen, Sand 1, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
2 Center for Space Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
3 Astrophysics Group, Cavendish Laboratory, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 OHE, UK
4 Center for Astronomy and Space Sciences, Code 0424, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
5 Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

To be published in: A&A 407, 1039-1058 (2003)

Abstract. We present the long term evolution of the timing properties of the black hole candidate Cygnus X-1 in the 0.002-128 Hz frequency range as monitored from 1998 to 2001 with the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). For most of this period the source was in its hard state. The power spectral density (PSD) is well modeled as the sum of four Lorentzians, which describe distinct broad noise components. Before 1998 July, Cyg X-1 was in a "quiet" hard state characterized primarily by the first three of these broad Lorentzians being dominant. Around 1998 May, this behavior changed: the total fractional rms amplitude decreased, the peak frequencies of the Lorentzians increased, the average time lag slightly increased, and the X-ray spectrum softened. The change in the timing parameters is mainly due to a strong decrease in the amplitude of the third Lorentzian. Since this event, an unusually large number of X-ray flares have been observed, which we classify as "failed state transitions". During these failed state transitions, the X-ray power spectrum changes to that of the intermediate state. Modeling this PSD with the four Lorentzians, we find that the first Lorentzian component is suppressed relative to the second and third Lorentzian during the state transitions. We also confirm our previous conclusion that the frequency-dependent time lags increase significantly in the 3.2-10 Hz band during these transitions. We confirm the interpretation of the flares as failed state transitions with observations from the 2001 January and 2001 October soft states. Both the behavior of the PSD and the X-ray lag suggest that some or all of the Lorentzian components are associated with the accretion disk corona responsible for the hard state spectrum. We discuss the physical interpretation of our results.

Preprint (848 kb PDF file including figures)

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