Spectral Transition and Torque Reversal in X-Ray Pulsar 4U 1626−67 Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The accretion-powered, X-ray pulsar 4U 1626-67 has recently shown an abrupt torque reversal accompanied by a dramatic spectral transition and a relatively small luminosity change. The time-averaged X-ray spectrum during spin-down is considerably harder than during spin-up. The observed torque reversal can be explained by an accretion flow transition triggered by a gradual change in the mass accretion rate. The sudden transition to spin-down is caused by a change in the accretion flow rotation from Keplerian to sub-Keplerian. 4U 1626-67 is estimated to be near spin equilibrium with a mass accretion rate Mdot~2x10**16 g/s, Mdot decreasing at a rate ~6x10**14 g/s/yr, and a polar surface magnetic field of ~2b_p**{-1/2} 10^**12G where b_p is the magnetic pitch. During spin-up, the Keplerian flow remains geometrically thin and cool. During spin-down, the sub-Keplerian flow becomes geometrically thick and hot. Soft photons from near the stellar surface are Compton up-scattered by the hot accretion flow during spin-down while during spin-up such scattering is unlikely due to the small scale-height and low temperature of the flow. This mechanism accounts for the observed spectral hardening and small luminosity change. The scattering occurs in a hot radially falling column of material with a scattering depth ~0.3 and a temperature ~10^9K. The X-ray luminosity at energies >5keV could be a poor indicator of the mass accretion rate. We briefly discuss the possible application of this mechanism to GX 1+4, although there are indications that this system is significantly different from other torque-reversal systems.

publication date

  • May 10, 1999