Orbital modulation of X-rays from Cygnus X-1 in its hard and soft states

Linqing Wen, Wei Cui, Alan M. Levine, Hale V. Bradt

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We have analyzed over 2 yr of RXTE/All-Sky Monitor data for Cygnus X-1. We have detected the 5.6 day orbital period in Lomb-Scargle periodograms of both light curves and hardness ratios when Cyg X-1 was in the hard state. This detection was made with improved sensitivity and temporal coverage compared with previous detections by other X-ray missions. The folded light curves and hardness ratios show a broad intensity dip accompanied by spectral hardening centered on superior conjunction of the X-ray source. The dip has a duration of about 27% of the orbital period and depth ranging from 8% to 23% of the nondip intensities in three energy bands. Variability on timescales of hours is often evident within the broad dip in the unfolded data. In contrast, no feature at the orbital period is evident in the periodograms or folded light curves for the soft state. Absorption of X-rays by a stellar wind from the companion star can reproduce the observed X-ray orbital modulations in the hard state. To explain the low orbital modulation in the soft-state data, a reduction of the wind density during the soft state would be required. As an alternative, a partial covering scenario is described that could also account for the lack of the orbital modulation in the soft state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)968-977
Number of pages10
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 1999
Externally publishedYes


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