Current X-ray observatories make it possible to follow the evolution of transient and variable X-ray binaries across a broad range in luminosity and source behavior. In such studies, it can be unclear whether evolution in the low-energy portion of the spectrum should be attributed to evolution in the source, or instead to evolution in neutral photoelectric absorption. Dispersive spectrometers make it possible to address this problem. We have analyzed a small but diverse set of X-ray binaries observed with the Chandra High Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer across a range in luminosity and different spectral states. The column density in individual photoelectric absorption edges remains constant with luminosity, both within and across source spectral states. This finding suggests that absorption in the interstellar medium strongly dominates the neutral column density observed in spectra of X-ray binaries. Consequently, evolution in the low-energy spectrum of X-ray binaries should properly be attributed to evolution in the source spectrum. We discuss our results in the context of X-ray binary spectroscopy with current and future X-ray missions.
Cosmology, Relativity, and Gravity | External Galaxies | Stars, Interstellar Medium and the Galaxy
On Neutral Absorption and Spectral Evolution in X-Ray Binaries
J. M. Miller et al. 2009 ApJ 707 L77