Measuring interacting binary mass functions with X-ray fluorescence

Cordelia Dashwood Brown, Poshak Gandhi, Phil Charles

Submitted on 20 September 2022


The masses of compact objects in X-ray binaries are best constrained through dynamical measurements, relying on radial velocity curves of the companion star. In anticipation of upcoming high X-ray spectral resolution telescopes, we explore their potential to constrain the mass function of the compact object. Fe K line fluorescence is a common feature in the spectra of luminous X-ray binaries, with a Doppler-broadened component from the inner accretion disc extensively studied. If a corresponding narrow line from the X-ray irradiated companion can be isolated, this provides am opportunity to further constrain the binary system properties. Here, we model binary geometry to determine the companion star's solid angle, and deduce the iron line's equivalent width. We find that for systems with a mass ratio q>0.1, the expected Kα equivalent width is 2-40 eV. Simulations using XSPEC indicate that new microcalorimeters will have sufficient resolution to be able to produce Kα emission line radial velocity measurements with precision of 5-40 km s1, for source continuum fluxes exceeding 1012 erg cm2 s1. Several caveats need to be considered; this method is dependent on successful isolation of the narrow line from the broad component, and the observation of clear changes in velocity independent of scatter arising from complex wind and disc behaviour. These issues remain to be proven with microcalorimeters, but this method has the potential to constrain binary parameters where optical measurements are not viable.


Comment: MNRAS in press. 10 pages, 6 figures

Subject: Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena