Understanding the long-term spectral variability of Cygnus X-1 with burst and transient source experiment and all-sky monitor observations

Andrzej A. Zdziarski, Juri Poutanen, William S. Paciesas, Linqing Wen

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165 Citations (Scopus)


We present a comprehensive analysis of all observations of Cyg X-1 by the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE; 20-300 keV) and by the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer all-sky monitor (ASM; 1.5-12 keV) until 2002 June, including ∼1200 days of simultaneous data. We find a number of correlations between fluxes and hardnesses in different energy bands. In the hard (low) spectral state, there is a negative correlation between the ASM 1.5-12 keV flux and the hardness at any energy. In the soft (high) spectral state, the ASM flux is positively correlated with the ASM hardness but uncorrelated with the BATSE hardness. In both spectral states, the BATSE hardness correlates with the flux above 100 keV, while it shows no correlation with the 20-100 keV flux. At the same time, there is clear correlation between the BATSE fluxes below and above 100 keV. In the hard state, most of the variability can be explained by softening the overall spectrum with a pivot at ∼50 keV. There is also another, independent variability pattern of lower amplitude where the spectral shape does not change when the luminosity changes. In the soft state, the variability is mostly caused by a variable hard (Comptonized) spectral component of a constant shape superposed on a constant soft blackbody component. These variability patterns are in agreement with the dependencies of the rms variability on the photon energy in the two states. We also study in detail recent soft states from late 2000 until 2002. The last of them has lasted thus far for more than 200 days. Their spectra are generally harder in the 1.5-5 keV band and similar or softer in the 3-12 keV band than the spectra of the 1996 soft state, whereas the rms variability is stronger in all the ASM bands. On the other hand, the 1994 soft state transition observed by BATSE appears very similar to the 1996 one. We interpret the variability patterns in terms of theoretical Comptonization models. In the hard state, the variability appears to be driven mostly by changing flux in seed photons Comptonized in a hot thermal plasma cloud with an approximately constant power supply. In the soft state, the variability is consistent with flares of hybrid, thermal/nonthermal, plasma with variable power above a stable cold disk. The spectral and timing differences between the 1996 and 2000-2002 soft states are explained by a decrease of the color disk temperature. Also, on the basis of broadband pointed observations simultaneous with those of the ASM and BATSE, we find the intrinsic bolometric luminosity increases by a factor of ∼3-4 from the hard state to the soft one, which supports models of the state transition based on a change of the accretion rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-373
Number of pages17
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


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