Time-frequency analysis of the superorbital modulation of the X-ray binary SMC X-1 using the Hilbert-Huang transform

Chin Ping Hu, Yi Chou, Ming Chya Wu, Ting Chang Yang, Yi Hao Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The high-mass X-ray binary SMC X-1 exhibits a superorbital modulation with a dramatically varying period ranging between ∼40 days and ∼60 days. This research studies the time-frequency properties of the superorbital modulation of SMC X-1 based on the observations made by the All-Sky Monitor (ASM) onboard the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). We analyzed the entire ASM database collected since 1996. The Hilbert-Huang transform (HHT), developed for non-stationary and nonlinear time-series analysis, was adopted to derive the instantaneous superorbital frequency. The resultant Hilbert spectrum is consistent with the dynamic power spectrum as it shows more detailed information in both the time and frequency domains. The RXTE observations show that the superorbital modulation period was mostly between ∼50days and ∼65days, whereas it changed to 45 days around MJD 50,800 and MJD 54,000. Our analysis further indicates that the instantaneous frequency changed to a timescale of hundreds of days between ∼MJD 51,500 and ∼MJD 53,500. Based on the instantaneous phase defined by HHT, we folded the ASM light curve to derive a superorbital profile, from which an asymmetric feature and a low state with barely any X-ray emissions (lasting for ∼0.3 cycles) were observed. We also calculated the correlation between the mean period and the amplitude of the superorbital modulation. The result is similar to the recently discovered relationship between the superorbital cycle length and the mean X-ray flux for Her X-1.

Original languageEnglish
Article number67
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2011


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Time-frequency analysis of the superorbital modulation of the X-ray binary SMC X-1 using the Hilbert-Huang transform'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this