Thermonuclear (type i) X-ray bursts observed by the rossi X-ray timing explorer

Duncan K. Galloway, Michael P. Muno, Jacob M. Hartman, Dimitrios Psaltis, Deepto Chakrabarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

549 Scopus citations


We have assembled a sample of 1187 thermonuclear (type I) X-ray bursts from observations of 48 accreting neutron stars by the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, spanning more than 10 years. The sample contains examples of two of the three theoretical ignition regimes (confirmed via comparisons with numerical models) and likely examples of the third. We present a detailed analysis of the variation of the burst profiles, energetics, recurrence times, presence of photospheric radius expansion, and presence of burst oscillations, as a function of accretion rate. We estimated the distance for 35 sources exhibiting radius-expansion bursts, and found that the peak flux of such bursts varies typically by 13%. We classified sources into two main groups based on the burst properties: (1) both long and short bursts (indicating mixed H/He accretion), and (2) consistently short bursts (primarily He accretion), and we calculated the mean burst rate as a function of accretion rate for the two groups. The decrease in burst rate observed at >0.06MEdd ({suceeds or eeequivalent to}2 × 1037 ergs s-1) is associated with a transition in the persistent spectral state and (as has been suggested previously) may be related to the increasing role of steady He burning. We found many examples of bursts with recurrence times <30 minutes, including burst triplets and even quadruplets. We describe the oscillation amplitudes for 13 of the 16 burst oscillation sources, as well as the stages and properties of the bursts in which the oscillations are detected. The burst properties are correlated with the burst oscillation frequency; sources spinning at <400 Hz generally have consistently short bursts, while the more rapidly spinning systems have both long and short bursts. This correlation suggests either that shear-mediated mixing dominates the burst properties, or alternatively that the nature of the mass donor (and hence the evolutionary history) has an influence on the long-term spin evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-422
Number of pages63
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Abundances
  • Bursts
  • Distances
  • Neutro
  • Nuclear reactions
  • Nucleosynthesis
  • Stars
  • X-rays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Thermonuclear (type i) X-ray bursts observed by the rossi X-ray timing explorer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this