AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 47. Variable and Binary Stars - Spectroscopy
Display, Tuesday, June 5, 2001, 10:00am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[47.03] Disk Disruptions and X-ray Intensity Excursions in Cyg X-2, LMC X-3 and Cyg X-3


The RXTE All Sky Monitor soft X-ray light curves of many X-ray binaries show long-term intensity variations (a.k.a "superorbital periodicities") that have been ascribed to precession of a warped, tilted accretion disk around the X-ray source. We have found that the excursion times between X-ray minima in Cyg X-2 can be characterized as a series of integer multiples of the 9.8 binary orbital period, (as opposed to the previously reported stable 77.7 day single periodicity, or a single modulation whose period changes slowly with time). While the data set is too short for a proper statistical analysis, it is clear that the length of any given intensity excursion cannot be used to predict the next (integer) excursion length in the series.

In the black hole candidate system LMC X-3, the excursion times are shown to be related to each other by rational fractions. We find that the long term light curve of the unusual galactic X-ray jet source Cyg X-3 can also be described as a series of intensity excursions related to each other by integer multiples of a fundamental underlying clock. In the latter cases, the clock is apparently not related to the known binary periods. A unified physical model, involving both an inclined accretion disk and a fixed-probability disk disruption mechanism is presented, and compared with three-body scattering results. Each time the disk passes through the orbital plane it experiences a fixed probability P that it will disrupt. This model has testable predictions---the distribution of integers should resemble that of an atomic process with a characteristic half life. Further analysis can support or refute the model, and shed light on what system parameters effectively set the value of P.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: padi@dragons.gsfc.nasa.gov

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