Journal Article

Compton scattering as the explanation of the peculiar X-ray properties of Cyg X-3

Andrzej A. Zdziarski, Ranjeev Misra and Marek Gierliński

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 402, issue 2, pages 767-775
Published in print February 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online February 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.15942.x
Compton scattering as the explanation of the peculiar X-ray properties of Cyg X-3

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We consider implications of a possible presence of a Thomson-thick, low-temperature, plasma cloud surrounding the compact object in the binary system Cyg X-3. The presence of such a cloud was earlier inferred from the energy-independent orbital modulation of the X-ray flux and the lack of high frequencies in its power spectra. Here, we study the effect of Compton scattering by the cloud on the X-ray energy and power spectra, concentrating on the hard spectral state. The process reduces the energy of the high-energy break/cut-off in the energy spectra, which allows us to determine the Thomson optical depth. This, together with the observed cut-off in the power spectrum, determines the size of the plasma to be ∼2 × 109 cm. At this size, the cloud will be in thermal equilibrium in the photon field of the X-ray source, which yields the cloud temperature of ≃3 keV, which refines the determination of the Thomson optical depth to ∼7. At these parameters, thermal bremsstrahlung emission of the cloud becomes important as well. The physical origin of the cloud is likely to be collision of the very strong stellar wind of the companion Wolf–Rayet star with a small accretion disc formed by the wind accretion. Our model thus explains the peculiar X-ray energy and power spectra of Cyg X-3.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; binaries: general; stars: individual: Cyg X-3; radio continuum: stars; X-rays: binaries; X-rays: stars

Journal Article.  7060 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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