HEAD 2000, November 2000
Session 31. Galactic Black Holes
Display, Thursday, November 9, 2000, 8:00am-6:00pm, Bora Bora Ballroom

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[31.22] Coronal X-ray Emission from the Stellar Companions to Transiently Accreting Black Holes

L. Bildsten (Institute for Theoretical Physics, UCSB), R. E. Rutledge (Space Radiation Laboratory, Caltech)

Many neutron stars and black holes are in binaries where the mass transfer rate onto the compact object is highly variable. X-ray observations of these transients in quiescence (Lx< 1034 \ {\rm erg \ s-1}) have found that the binaries harboring black holes are much fainter than those that contain a neutron star. Narayan and collaborators postulated that the faint X-ray emission from black hole binaries was powered by an advection dominated accretion flow (ADAF). The subsequent ADAF modeling requires that an appreciable fraction of the constant Roche-lobe overflow into the outer disk proceeds into the black hole during ``quiescence''. A robust and nearly uniform quenching mechanism must then be hypothesized for the neutron star binaries, as comparably large accretion rates would lead to luminosities in excess of 1036 \ {\rm erg \ s-1} in quiescence.

We explore an alternative explanation for the quiescent X-ray emission from the black hole systems: coronal emission from the rapidly rotating optical companion. This is commonly observed and well studied in other tidally locked binaries. We show that two of the three X-ray detected black hole binaries (A0620-00 and GRO J1655-40) exhibit X-ray fluxes entirely consistent with coronal emission, and predict expected levels of coronal emission from other black hole binaries. One black hole system (V404 Cyg) is too X-ray bright to be explained as coronal emission, and remains a candidate for ADAFs in quiescence. The quiescent X-ray emission from all of the neutron star binaries is far too bright for coronal emission. It might be that all SXT's have variable accretion rates in quiescence and that the basal quiescent X-ray flux is set by either coronal emission from the companion or -- when present -- by thermal emission from the neutron star.

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