A Spectroscopic Angle on Central Engine Size Scales in Accreting Neutron Stars
Analyses of absorption from disk winds and atmospheres in accreting compact objects typically treat the central emitting regions in these systems as point sources relative to the absorber. This assumption breaks down if the absorbing gas is located within a few × 1000 GM/c 2, in which case a small component of the absorber's Keplerian motion contributes to the velocity width of absorption lines. Here, we demonstrate how this velocity-broadening effect can be used to constrain the sizes of central engines in accreting compact objects via a simple geometric relationship, and develop a method for modeling this effect. We apply this method to the Chandra/HETG spectra of three ultracompact and short-period neutron star X-ray binaries in which evidence of gravitationally redshifted absorption, owing to an inner-disk atmosphere, has recently been reported. The significance of the redshift is above 5σ for XTE J1710-281 (this work) and 4U 1916-053, and is inconsistent with various estimates of the relative radial velocity of each binary. For our most sensitive spectrum (XTE J1710-281), we obtain a 1σ upper bound of 310 km s-1 on the magnitude of this geometric effect and a central engine of size R CE < 60 GM/c 2 (or < 90 GM/c 2 at the 3σ level). These initial constraints compare favorably to those obtained via microlensing in quasars and approach the sensitivity of constraints via relativistic reflection in neutron stars. This sensitivity will increase with further exposures, as well as the launch of future microcalorimeter and grating missions.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- February 2022
- Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
- Accepted to ApJ, 32 Pages (3 Appendices), 17 Figures