A high-sensitivity measurement of the MeV gamma-ray spectrum of Cygnus X-1

Academic Article


  • The Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (CGRO) has observed the Cygnus region on several occasions since its launch in 1991. The data collected by the COMPTEL experiment on CGRO represent the most sensitive observations to date of Cygnus X-1 in the 0.75-30 MeV range. A spectrum accumulated by COMPTEL over 10 weeks of observation time shows significant evidence for emission extending out to several MeV. We have combined these data with contemporaneous data from both BATSE and OSSE to produce a broad-band gamma-ray spectrum, corresponding to the low X-ray state of Cygnus X-1, extending from 50 keV up to approximately 5 MeV. Although there is no evidence for any broad line-like emissions in the MeV region, these data further confirm the presence of a hard tail at energies above several hundred keV. In particular, the spectrum at MeV energies can be described as a power-law with a photon spectral index of $\alpha$ = -3.2, with no evidence for a cutoff at high energies. For the 200 keV to 5 MeV spectrum, we provide a quantitative description of the underlying electron spectrum, in the context of a hybrid thermal/non-thermal model for the emission. The electron spectrum can be described by a thermal Maxwellian with a temperature of $kT_e$ = 86 keV and a non-thermal power-law component with a spectral index of $p_e$ = 4.5. The spectral data presented here should provide a useful basis for further theoretical modeling.
  • Authors

  • McConnell, Mark
  • Ryan, JM
  • Collmar, W
  • Schonfelder, V
  • Steinle, H
  • Strong, AW
  • Bloemen, H
  • Hermsen, W
  • Kuiper, L
  • Bennett, K
  • Phlips, BF
  • Ling, JC
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • November 10, 2000
  • 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

  • 928
  • End Page

  • 937
  • Volume

  • 543
  • Issue

  • 2