Speaker Deck

Spectral-Timing to Probe Strong Gravity in X-ray Binaries

by Abigail Stevens

Published January 5, 2017 in Science

Dissertation talk in the Black Holes II session at the American Astronomical Society meeting #229, Thursday January 5th, 2017.

X-ray spectral-timing seeks to investigate how matter behaves in strong gravitational fields. Observations suggest that different types of quasi-periodic oscillations (QPOs) are associated with different emission-region geometries (e.g. disk-like or jet-like) in the innermost part of an X-ray binary, close to the neutron star or black hole. We developed a technique for phase-resolved spectroscopy of QPOs, and have applied it to low-frequency QPOs from black hole X-ray binaries. On the QPO time-scale, we find that the energy spectrum changes not only in normalization, but also in spectral shape. We identify these changes as a phase-dependence of the intrinsic power-law emission as well as the response of the accretion disk to variable illumination by the power-law. We also look for systematic trends between different classes of sources and different accretion states. These trends help us to further constrain the origin of low-frequency QPOs and QPO evolution with the changing emission geometry in the strong-gravity regime.