Superorbital phase-resolved analysis of SMC X-1

Chin Ping Hu, Yi Chou, Ting Chang Yang, Yi Hao Su

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The high-mass X-ray binary SMC X-1 is an eclipsing binary with an orbital period of 3.89 days. This system exhibits a superorbital modulation with a period varying between ∼40 days and ∼65 days. The instantaneous frequency and the corresponding phase of the superorbital modulation can be obtained by a recently developed time-frequency analysis technique, the Hilbert-Huang transform (HHT). We present a phase-resolved analysis of both the spectra and the orbital profiles with the superorbital phase derived from the HHT. The X-ray spectra observed by the Proportional Counter Array on board the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer are fitted well by a blackbody plus a Comptonized component. The plasma optical depth, which is a good indicator of the distribution of material along the line of sight, is significantly anti-correlated with the flux detected at 2.5-25 keV. However, the relationship between the plasma optical depth and the equivalent width of the iron line is not monotonic. There is no significant correlation for fluxes higher than ∼35 mCrab but clear positive correlation when the intensity is lower than ∼20 mCrab. This indicates that the iron line production is dominated by different regions of this binary system in different superorbital phases. To study the dependence of the orbital profile on the superorbital phase, we obtained the eclipse profiles by folding the All Sky Monitor light curve with the orbital period for different superorbital states. A dip feature, similar to the pre-eclipse dip in Her X-1, lying at orbital phase ∼0.6-0.85, was discovered during the superorbital transition state. This indicates that the accretion disk has a bulge that absorbs considerable X-ray emission in the stream-disk interaction region. The dip width is anti-correlated with the flux, and this relation can be interpreted by the precessing tilted accretion disk scenario.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2013


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • stars: individual (SMC X-1)
  • X-rays: binaries
  • X-rays: individual (SMC X-1)


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