The soft gamma-ray spectral variability of Cygnus X-1

Academic Article


  • We have used observations of Cygnus X-1 from the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (CGRO) and BeppoSAX to study the variation in the MeV gamma-ray emission between the hard and soft spectral states, using spectra that cover the energy range 20 keV up to 10 MeV. These data provide evidence for significant spectral variability at energies above 1 MeV. In particular, whereas the hard X-ray flux decreases during the soft state, the flux at energies above 1 MeV increases, resulting in a significantly harder gamma-ray spectrum at energies above 1 MeV. This behavior is consistent with the general picture of galactic black hole candidates having two distinct spectral forms at soft gamma-ray energies. These data extend this picture, for the first time, to energies above 1 MeV. We have used two different hybrid thermal/non-thermal Comptonization models to fit broad band spectral data obtained in both the hard and soft spectral states. These fits provide a quantitative estimate of the electron distribution and allow us to probe the physical changes that take place during transitions between the low and high X-ray states. We find that there is a significant increase (by a factor of ~4) in the bolometric luminosity as the source moves from the hard state to the soft state. Furthermore, the presence of a non-thermal tail in the Comptonizing electron distribution provides significant constraints on the magnetic field in the source region.
  • Authors

  • McConnell, Mark
  • Zdziarski, AA
  • Bennett, K
  • Bloemen, H
  • Collmar, W
  • Hermsen, W
  • Kuiper, L
  • Paciesas, W
  • Phlips, BF
  • Poutanen, J
  • Ryan, JM
  • Schonfelder, V
  • Steinle, H
  • Strong, AW
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • June 20, 2002
  • Has Subject Area


  • X-rays : stars
  • accretion, accretion disks
  • black hole physics
  • gamma rays : observations
  • stars : individual (Cygnus X-1)
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 984
  • End Page

  • 995
  • Volume

  • 572
  • Issue

  • 2