Journal Article

Infrared contamination in Galactic X-ray novae

Mark T. Reynolds, Paul J. Callanan, Edward L. Robinson and Cynthia S. Froning

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 387, issue 2, pages 788-796
Published in print June 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online May 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Infrared contamination in Galactic X-ray novae

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The most widely used means of measuring the mass of black holes in Galactic binaries – specifically the X-ray novae – involves both radial velocity measurements of the secondary star, and photometric measurements of its ellipsoidal variability. The latter is important in constraining the inclination and mass ratio, and requires as direct a measure of the flux of the secondary as possible. Up to now, such measurements have been preferentially carried out in the near-infrared (NIR: 1–2.5 μm), where the flux from the cooler secondary is expected to dominate over that from the accretion disc. However, here we present evidence of a significant non-stellar contribution to the NIR flux in many of those quiescent X-ray novae that are thought to contain a black hole primary. We discuss origins of this excess and the effect of such contamination on Galactic black hole mass measurements.

Keywords: X-rays: binaries

Journal Article.  6354 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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