An extensive census of Hubble space telescope counterparts to Chandra X-ray sources in the globular cluster 47 tucanae. II. Time series and analysis

Peter D. Edmonds, Ronald L. Gilliland, Craig O. Heinke, Jonathan E. Grindlay

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We report time series and variability information for the optical identifications of X-ray sources in 47 Tucanae reported in Paper I (at least 22 cataclysmic variables [CVs] and 29 active binaries). The radial distribution of the CVs is indistinguishable from that of the millisecond pulsars (MSPs) detected by Freire et al. A study of the eight CVs with secure orbital periods (two obtained from the Chandra study of Grindlay et al.) shows that the 47 Tuc CVs have fainter accretion disks, in the V band, than field CVs with similar periods. These faint disks and the faint absolute magnitudes (MV) of the 47 Tuc CVs suggests they have low accretion rates. One possible explanation is that the 47 Tuc objects may be a more representative sample of CVs, down to our detection threshold, than the CVs found in the field (where many low accretion rate systems are believed to be undiscovered), showing the advantages of deep globular cluster observations. The median FX/F opt. value for the 47 Tuc CVs is higher than that of all known classes of field CV, partly because of the faint MV values and partly because of the relatively high X-ray luminosities (LX). The latter are only seen in DQ Her systems in the field, but the 47 Tuc CVs are much fainter optically than most field DQ Her's. Previous work by Edmonds et al. has shown that the four brightest CVs in NGC 6397 have optical spectra and broadband colors that are consistent with DQ Her's having lower than average accretion rates. Some combination of magnetic behavior and low accretion rates may be able to explain our observations, but the results at present are ambiguous, since no class of field CV has distributions of both LX and MV that are consistent with those of the 47 Tuc CVs. The radial distribution of the X-ray detected active binaries is indistinguishable from that of the much larger sample of optical variables (eclipsing and contact binaries and BY Dra variables) detected in previous Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) studies by Albrow et al. The X-ray properties of these objects (luminosity, hardness ratios, and variability) are consistent with those of active binaries found in field studies, and the FX/Fopt distribution is significantly different from those of the CVs and the MSPs that are detected (or possibly detected) in the optical. Despite these results, we examine the possibility that a few of the active binaries are MSPs with main-sequence companions resulting from double exchanges in the crowded core of 47 Tuc. No solid evidence is found for a significant population of such objects, and therefore, using the methods of Grindlay et al., we estimate that the number of MSPs in 47 Tuc with luminosities above 1030 ergs s -1 is ∼30-40, near the previous lower limit. We present the results of a new, deeper search for faint low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) in quiescence. One reasonable and one marginal candidate for optical identification of a quiescent LMXB was found (one is already known). Finally, it is shown that the periods of the blue variables showing little or no evidence for X-ray emission are too long for Roche lobe filling (if the variations are ellipsoidal). These blue variables also show no evidence for the large flickering levels seen in comparably bright CVs. At present we have no satisfactory explanation for these objects, although some may be detached white dwarf-main-sequence star binaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1197-1219
Number of pages23
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Oct 20 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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