Wednesday, July 24, 2013

1307.6026 (K. Postnov et al.)

Variable neutron star free precession in Hercules X-1 from evolution of RXTE X-ray pulse profiles with phase of the 35-day cycle    [PDF]

K. Postnov, N. Shakura, . R. Staubert, A. Kochetkova, D. Klochkov, J. Wilms
Accretion of matter onto the surface of a freely precessing NS with a complex non-dipole magnetic field can explain the change of X-ray pulse profiles of Her X-1 observed by RXTE with the phase of the 35-day cycle. We demonstrate this using all available measurements of X-ray pulse profiles in the 9-13 keV energy range obtained with the RXTE/PCA. The measured profiles guided the elaboration of a geometrical model and the definition of locations of emitting poles, arcs, and spots on the NS surface which satisfactorily reproduce the observed pulse profiles and their dependence on free precession phase. We have found that the observed trend of the times of the 35-day turn-ons on the O-C diagram, which can be approximated by a collection of consecutive linear segments around the mean value, can be described by our model by assuming a variable free precession period, with a fractional period change of about a few percent. We propose that the 2.5% changes in the free precession period that occur on time scales of several to tens of 35-day cycles can be related to wandering of the principal inertia axis of the NS body due to variations in the patterns of accretion onto the NS surface. The closeness of periods of the disk precession and the NS free precession can be explained by the presence of a synchronization mechanism in the system, which modulates the dynamical interaction of the gas streams and the accretion disk with the NS free precession period.
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