Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 442, 2325-2330 (2014/August-2)
Bright flares in supergiant fast X-ray transients.
SHAKURA N., POSTNOV K., SIDOLI L. and PAIZIS A.
Abstract (from CDS):
At steady low-luminosity states, supergiant fast X-ray transients (SFXTs) can be at the stage of quasi-spherical settling accretion on to slowly rotating magnetized neutron stars from the OB-companion winds. At this stage, a hot quasi-static shell is formed above the magnetosphere, the plasma entry rate into magnetosphere is controlled by (inefficient) radiative plasma cooling, and the accretion rate on to the neutron star is suppressed by a factor of ∼ 30 relative to the Bondi-Hoyle-Littleton value. Changes in the local wind velocity and density due to, e.g. clumps, can only slightly increase the mass accretion rate (a factor of ∼ 10) bringing the system into the Compton-cooling-dominated regime and led to the production of moderately bright flares (Lx ≲ 1036 erg/s). To interpret the brightest flares (Lx > 1036 erg/s) displayed by the SFXTs within the quasi-spherical settling accretion regimes, we propose that a larger increase in the mass accretion rate can be produced by sporadic capture of magnetized stellar wind plasma. At sufficiently low accretion rates, magnetic reconnection can enhance the magnetospheric plasma entry rate, resulting in copious production of X-ray photons, strong Compton cooling and ultimately in unstable accretion of the entire shell. A bright flare develops on the free-fall time-scale in the shell, and the typical energy released in an SFXT bright flare corresponds to the mass of the shell. This view is consistent with the energy released in SFXT bright flares ( ∼ 1038-1040 erg), their typical dynamic range ( ∼ 100) and with the observed dependence of these characteristics on the average unflaring X-ray luminosity of SFXTs. Thus, the flaring behaviour of SFXTs, as opposed to steady HMXBs, may be primarily related to their low X-ray luminosity allowing sporadic magnetic reconnection to occur during magnetized plasma entry into the magnetosphere.
© The Authors 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society (2014)
stars: neutron - X-rays: binaries
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