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A quasi-periodic modulation of the iron line centroid energy in the black hole binary H1743-322

A quasi-periodic modulation of the iron line centroid energy in the black hole binary H1743-322
A quasi-periodic modulation of the iron line centroid energy in the black hole binary H1743-322
Accreting stellar-mass black holes often show a ‘Type-C’ quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) in their X-ray flux and an iron emission line in their X-ray spectrum. The iron line is generated through continuum photons reflecting off the accretion disc, and its shape is distorted by relativistic motion of the orbiting plasma and the gravitational pull of the black hole. The physical origin of the QPO has long been debated, but is often attributed to Lense–Thirring precession, a General Relativistic effect causing the inner flow to precess as the spinning black hole twists up the surrounding space–time. This predicts a characteristic rocking of the iron line between red- and blueshift as the receding and approaching sides of the disc are respectively illuminated. Here we report on XMM–Newton and NuSTAR observations of the black hole binary H1743?322 in which the line energy varies systematically over the ?4 s QPO cycle (3.70? significance), as predicted. This provides strong evidence that the QPO is produced by Lense–Thirring precession, constituting the first detection of this effect in the strong gravitation regime. There are however elements of our results harder to explain, with one section of data behaving differently than all the others. Our result enables the future application of tomographic techniques to map the inner regions of black hole accretion discs.

This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
0035-8711
1967-1980
Ingram, Adam
01a02529-ad9f-4936-af5d-c200f88d4e53
van der Klis, Michiel
673255ce-dd17-4da0-910c-e3cb78460636
Middleton, Matthew
f91b89d9-fd2e-42ec-aa99-1249f08a52ad
Done, Chris
f21f3c76-9341-4bc2-bbeb-d9a91c1ccee4
Altamirano, Diego
d5ccdb09-0b71-4303-9538-05b467be075b
Heil, Lucy
db5c0f2e-dc1e-41a8-8725-20c308f6af2d
Uttley, Phil
db770bd7-d97e-43f5-99d4-a585bccd352a
Axelsson, Magnus
7ccc282a-9928-4313-b749-4ce7bf4a786a
Ingram, Adam
01a02529-ad9f-4936-af5d-c200f88d4e53
van der Klis, Michiel
673255ce-dd17-4da0-910c-e3cb78460636
Middleton, Matthew
f91b89d9-fd2e-42ec-aa99-1249f08a52ad
Done, Chris
f21f3c76-9341-4bc2-bbeb-d9a91c1ccee4
Altamirano, Diego
d5ccdb09-0b71-4303-9538-05b467be075b
Heil, Lucy
db5c0f2e-dc1e-41a8-8725-20c308f6af2d
Uttley, Phil
db770bd7-d97e-43f5-99d4-a585bccd352a
Axelsson, Magnus
7ccc282a-9928-4313-b749-4ce7bf4a786a

Ingram, Adam, van der Klis, Michiel, Middleton, Matthew, Done, Chris, Altamirano, Diego, Heil, Lucy, Uttley, Phil and Axelsson, Magnus (2016) A quasi-periodic modulation of the iron line centroid energy in the black hole binary H1743-322. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 461 (2), 1967-1980. (doi:10.1093/mnras/stw1245).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Accreting stellar-mass black holes often show a ‘Type-C’ quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) in their X-ray flux and an iron emission line in their X-ray spectrum. The iron line is generated through continuum photons reflecting off the accretion disc, and its shape is distorted by relativistic motion of the orbiting plasma and the gravitational pull of the black hole. The physical origin of the QPO has long been debated, but is often attributed to Lense–Thirring precession, a General Relativistic effect causing the inner flow to precess as the spinning black hole twists up the surrounding space–time. This predicts a characteristic rocking of the iron line between red- and blueshift as the receding and approaching sides of the disc are respectively illuminated. Here we report on XMM–Newton and NuSTAR observations of the black hole binary H1743?322 in which the line energy varies systematically over the ?4 s QPO cycle (3.70? significance), as predicted. This provides strong evidence that the QPO is produced by Lense–Thirring precession, constituting the first detection of this effect in the strong gravitation regime. There are however elements of our results harder to explain, with one section of data behaving differently than all the others. Our result enables the future application of tomographic techniques to map the inner regions of black hole accretion discs.

This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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Accepted/In Press date: 19 May 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 25 May 2016
Published date: 11 September 2016
Organisations: Astronomy Group

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 401481
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/401481
ISSN: 0035-8711
PURE UUID: e2b98e3f-2645-4303-8456-896803d2baa8
ORCID for Diego Altamirano: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3422-0074

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Date deposited: 17 Oct 2016 15:31
Last modified: 17 Dec 2019 01:35

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