A Rapidly Varying Red Supergiant X-Ray Binary in the Galactic Center

Amy M. Gottlieb, Stephen S. Eikenberry, Kendall Ackley, Curtis Dewitt, Amparo Marco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We analyzed multiwavelength observations of the previously identified Galactic center X-ray binary CXO 174528.79-290942.8 (XID 6592) and determine that the near-infrared counterpart is a red supergiant based on its spectrum and luminosity. Scutum X-1 is the only previously known X-ray binary with a red supergiant donor star and closely resembles XID 6592 in terms of X-ray luminosity (L X), absolute magnitude, and IR variability (L IR,var), supporting the conclusion that XID 6592 contains a red supergiant donor star. The XID 6592 infrared counterpart shows variability of ∼0.5 mag in the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer-1 band (3.4 μm) on timescales of a few hours. Other infrared data sets also show large-amplitude variability from this source at earlier epochs but do not show significant variability in recent data. We do not expect red supergiants to vary by ∼50% in luminosity over these short timescales, indicating that the variability should be powered by the compact object. However, the X-ray luminosity of this system is typically ∼1000 less than the variable luminosity in the infrared and falls below the Chandra detection limit. While X-ray reprocessing can produce large-amplitude fast infrared variability, it typically requires L IR,var to do so, indicating that another process must be at work. We suggest that this system may be a supergiant fast X-ray transient (SFXT), and that a large (∼1038 ergs s-1), fast (102-4 s) X-ray flare could explain the rapid IR variability and lack of a long-lasting X-ray outburst detection. SFXTs are normally associated with blue supergiant companions, so if confirmed, XID 6592 would be the first red supergiant SFXT, as well as the second X-ray red supergiant binary.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Number of pages11
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2020

Cite this