Journal Article

Opacity effects and shock-in-jet modelling of low-level activity in Cygnus X-3

James C. A. Miller-Jones, Michael P. Rupen, Marc Türler, Elina J. Lindfors, Katherine M. Blundell and Guy G. Pooley

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 394, issue 1, pages 309-322
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.14279.x
Opacity effects and shock-in-jet modelling of low-level activity in Cygnus X-3

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We present simultaneous dual-frequency radio observations of Cygnus X-3 during a phase of low-level activity. We constrain the minimum variability time-scale to be 20 min at 43 GHz and 30 min at 15 GHz, implying source sizes of 2–4 au. We detect polarized emission at a level of a few per cent at 43 GHz which varies with the total intensity. The delay of ∼10 min between the peaks of the flares at the two frequencies is seen to decrease with time, and we find that synchrotron self-absorption and free–free absorption by entrained thermal material play a larger role in determining the opacity than absorption in the stellar wind of the companion. A shock-in-jet model gives a good fit to the light curves at all frequencies, demonstrating that this mechanism, which has previously been used to explain the brighter, longer lived giant outbursts in this source, is also applicable to these low-level flaring events. Assembling the data from outbursts spanning over two orders of magnitude in flux density shows evidence for a strong correlation between the peak brightness of an event, and the time-scale and frequency at which this is attained. Brighter flares evolve on longer time-scales and peak at lower frequencies. Analysis of the fitted model parameters suggests that brighter outbursts are due to shocks forming further downstream in the jet, with an increased electron normalization and magnetic field strength both playing a role in setting the strength of the outburst.

Keywords: shock waves; stars: individual: Cygnus X-3; ISM: jets and outflows; radio continuum: stars; X-rays: binaries

Journal Article.  12221 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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