Discovery of strongly variable X-ray polarization in the neutron star low-mass X-ray binary transient XTE J1701-462

Massimo Cocchi, Andrea Gnarini, Sergio Fabiani, Francesco Ursini, Juri Poutanen, Fiamma Capitanio, Anna Bobrikova, Ruben Farinelli, Adamantia Paizis, Lara Sidoli, Alexandra Veledina, Stefano Bianchi, Alessandro Di Marco, Adam Ingram, Jari J.E. Kajava, Fabio La Monaca, Giorgio Matt, Christian Malacaria, Romana Mikušincová, John RankinSilvia Zane, Iván Agudo, Lucio A. Antonelli, Matteo Bachetti, Luca Baldini, Wayne H. Baumgartner, Ronaldo Bellazzini, Stephen D. Bongiorno, Raffaella Bonino, Alessandro Brez, Niccolò Bucciantini, Simone Castellano, Elisabetta Cavazzuti, Chien Ting Chen, Stefano Ciprini, Enrico Costa, Alessandra De Rosa, Ettore Del Monte, Laura Di Gesu, Niccolò Di Lalla, Immacolata Donnarumma, Victor Doroshenko, Michal Dovčiak, Steven R. Ehlert, Teruaki Enoto, Yuri Evangelista, Riccardo Ferrazzoli, Javier A. Garcia, Shuichi Gunji, Kiyoshi Hayashida, Jeremy Heyl, Wataru Iwakiri, Svetlana G. Jorstad, Philip Kaaret, Vladimir Karas, Fabian Kislat, Takao Kitaguchi, Jeffery J. Kolodziejczak, Henric Krawczynski, Luca Latronico, Ioannis Liodakis, Simone Maldera, Alberto Manfreda, Frédéric Marin, Andrea Marinucci, Alan P. Marscher, Herman L. Marshall, Francesco Massaro, Ikuyuki Mitsuishi, Tsunefumi Mizuno, Fabio Muleri, Michela Negro, Chi Yung Ng, Stephen L. O'dell, Nicola Omodei, Chiara Oppedisano, Alessandro Papitto, George G. Pavlov, Abel L. Peirson, Matteo Perri, Melissa Pesce-Rollins, Pierre Olivier Petrucci, Maura Pilia, Andrea Possenti, Simonetta Puccetti, Brian D. Ramsey, Ajay Ratheesh, Oliver J. Roberts, Roger W. Romani, Carmelo Sgrò, Patrick Slane, Paolo Soffitta, Gloria Spandre, Douglas A. Swartz, Toru Tamagawa, Fabrizio Tavecchio, Roberto Taverna, Yuzuru Tawara, Allyn F. Tennant, Nicholas E. Thomas, Francesco Tombesi, Alessio Trois, Sergey S. Tsygankov, Roberto Turolla, Jacco Vink, Martin C. Weisskopf, Kinwah Wu, Fei Xie

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Abstract

Context. After about 16 years since its first outburst, the transient neutron star low-mass X-ray binary XTE J1701-462 turned on again in September 2022, allowing for the first study of its X-ray polarimetric characteristics by a dedicated observing program with the Imaging X-ray Polarimeter Explorer (IXPE). Aims. Polarimetric studies of XTE J1701-462 have been expected to improve our understanding of accreting weakly magnetized neutron stars, in particular, the physics and the geometry of the hot inner regions close to the compact object. Methods. The IXPE data of two triggered observations were analyzed using time-resolved spectroscopic and polarimetric techniques, following the source along its Z-track of the color-color diagram. Results. During the first pointing on 2022 September 29, an average 2-8 keV polarization degree of (4.6-±-0.4)% was measured, the highest value found up to now for this class of sources. Conversely, only a ∼0.6% average degree was obtained during the second pointing ten days later. Conclusions. The polarimetric signal appears to be strictly related to the higher energy blackbody component associated with the boundary layer (BL) emission and its reflection from the inner accretion disk, and it is as strong as 6.1% and 1.2% (> 95% significant) above 3-4 keV for the two measurements, respectively. The variable polarimetric signal is apparently related to the spectral characteristics of XTE J1701-462, which is the strongest when the source was in the horizontal branch of its Z-track and the weakest in the normal branch. These IXPE results provide new important observational constraints on the physical models and geometry of the Z-sources. Here, we discuss the possible reasons for the presence of strong and variable polarization among these sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL10
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Volume674
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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