Broad iron emission lines are observed in many accreting systems from black holes in active galactic nuclei and X-ray binaries to neutron star low-mass X-ray binaries. The origin of the line broadening is often interpreted as due to dynamical broadening and relativistic effects. However, alternative interpretations have been proposed, included broadening due to Compton scattering in a wind or accretion disk atmosphere. Here we explore the observational signatures expected from broadening in a wind, in particular that the iron line width should increase with an increase in the column density of the absorber (due to an increase in the number of scatterings). We study the data from three neutron star low-mass X-ray binaries where both a broad iron emission line and absorption lines are seen simultaneously, and show that there is no significant correlation between line width and column density. This favors an inner disk origin for the line broadening rather than scattering in a wind.
Cosmology, Relativity, and Gravity | Stars, Interstellar Medium and the Galaxy
Broad Iron Lines in Neutrons Stars: Dynamical Broadening or Wind Scattering?
Edward M. Cackett and Jon M. Miller. 2013 ApJ 777 47