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In late 2008, the quasi-persistent neutron star X-ray transient and eclipsing binary EXO 0748-676 started a transition from outburst to quiescence, after it actively accreted for more than 24 yr. In a previous work, we discussed Chandra and Swift observations obtained during the first 5 months of this transition. Here, we report on further X-ray observations of EXO 0748-676, extending the quiescent monitoring to 1.6 yr. Chandra and XMM-Newton data reveal quiescent X-ray spectra composed of a soft, thermal component that is well fitted by a neutron star atmosphere model. An additional hard power-law tail is detected that changes non-monotonically over time, contributing between 4 and 20 per cent to the total unabsorbed 0.5-10 keV flux. The combined set of Chandra, XMM-Newton and Swift data reveals that the thermal bolometric luminosity fades from ˜ 1 × 1034 to 6 × 1033 (D/7.4 kpc)2 erg s -1, whereas the inferred neutron star effective temperature decreases from ˜124 to 109 eV. We interpret the observed decay as cooling of the neutron star crust and show that the fractional quiescent temperature change of EXO 0748-676 is markedly smaller than observed for three other neutron star X-ray binaries that underwent prolonged accretion outbursts.


Cosmology, Relativity, and Gravity | Stars, Interstellar Medium and the Galaxy


NOTICE IN COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLISHER POLICY: This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©2011 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Available at doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.17562.x