SMC X-1 is a high-mass X-ray binary showing superorbital modulation with an unstable period. Previous monitoring shows three excursion events in 1996–1998, 2005–2007, and 2014–2016. The superorbital period drifts from 60 to 40 d and then evolves back during an excursion. Here, we report a new excursion event of SMC X-1 in 2020–2021, indicating that the superorbital modulation has an unpredictable, chaotic nature. We trace the spin-period evolution and find that the spin-up rate accelerated 1 yr before the onset of this new excursion, which suggests a possible inside-out process connecting the spin-up acceleration and the superorbital excursion. This results in a deviation of the spin-period residual, similar to the behaviour of the first excursion in 1996–1998. In further analysis of the pulse profile evolution, we find that the pulsed fraction shows a long-term evolution and may be connected to the superorbital excursion. These discoveries deepen the mystery of SMC X-1 because they cannot be solely interpreted by the warped-disc model. Upcoming pointed observations and theoretical studies may improve our understanding of the detailed accretion mechanisms taking place.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science