Origin of the Soft Excess in X‐Ray Pulsars
Hickox, Ryan C.
Kallman, Timothy R.
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CitationHickox, Ryan C., Ramesh Narayan, and Timothy R. Kallman. 2004. “Origin of the Soft Excess in X‐Ray Pulsars.” The Astrophysical Journal 614 (2): 881–96. https://doi.org/10.1086/423928.
AbstractThe spectra of many X-ray pulsars show, in addition to a power law, a low-energy component that has often been modeled as a blackbody with kT(BB) similar to 0.1 keV. However, the physical origin of this soft excess has remained a mystery. We examine a sample of well-studied bright X-ray pulsars, which have been observed using ROSAT, ASCA, Ginga, RXTE, BeppoSAX, Chandra, and XMM-Newton. In particular, we consider the Magellanic Cloud pulsars SMC X-1, LMC X-4, XTE J0111.2-7317, and RX J0059.2-7138 and the Galactic sources Her X-1, 4U 1626-67, Cen X-3, and Vela X-1. We show that the soft excess is a very common if not ubiquitous feature intrinsic to X-ray pulsars. We evaluate several possible mechanisms for the soft emission, using theoretical arguments, as well as observational clues, such as spectral shapes, eclipses, pulsations of the soft component, and superorbital modulation of the source flux. We find that reprocessing of hard X-rays from the neutron star by the inner region of the accretion disk is the only process that can explain the soft excess in all the pulsars with L-X greater than or similar to 10(38) ergs s(-1). Other mechanisms, such as emission from diffuse gas in the system, are important in less luminous objects.
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