Variable O vi and N v emission from the X-ray binary LMC X-3: Heating of the black hole companion

Limin Song, Todd M. Tripp, Q. Daniel Wang, Yangsen Yao, Wei Cui, Yongquan Xue, Jerome A. Orosz, Danny Steeghs, James F. Steiner, Manuel A P Torres, Jeffrey E. McClintock

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Abstract

Based on high-resolution ultraviolet spectroscopy obtained with the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, we present new detections of O vi and N v emission from the black hole X-ray binary (XRB) system LMC X-3. We also update the ephemeris of the XRB using recent radial velocity measurements obtained with the echelle spectrograph on the Magellan-Clay telescope. We observe significant velocity variability of the UV emission, and we find that the O vi and N v emission velocities follow the optical velocity curve of the XRB. Moreover, the O vi and N v intensities regularly decrease between binary phase = 0.5 and 1.0, which suggests that the source of the UV emission is increasingly occulted as the B star in the XRB moves from superior to inferior conjunction. These trends suggest that illumination of the B star atmosphere by the intense X-ray emission from the accreting black hole creates a hot spot on one side of the B star, and this hot spot is the origin of the O vi and N v emission. However, the velocity semiamplitude of the ultraviolet emission, KUV ≈ 180 km s-1, is lower than the optical semiamplitude; this difference could be due to rotation of the B star. Comparison of the FUSE observations taken in 2001 November and 2004 April shows a significant change in the O vi emission characteristics: in the 2001 data, the O vi region shows both broad and narrow emission features, while in 2004 only the narrow O vi emission is clearly present. Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer data show that the XRB was in a high/soft state in the 2001 November epoch but was in a transitional state in 2004 April, so the shape of the X-ray spectrum might change the properties of the region illuminated on the B star and thus change the broad versus narrow characteristics of the UV emission. If our hypothesis about the origin of the highly ionized emission is correct, then careful analysis of the emission occultation could, in principle, constrain the inclination of the XRB and the mass of the black hole.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)794-803
Number of pages10
JournalThe Astronomical Journal
Volume140
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Stars: Individual (LMCX-3)

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