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Astron. Astrophys. 356, L45-L48 (2000)

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Letter to the Editor

The first radius-expansion X-ray burst from GX 3+1

E. Kuulkers 1,2 and M. van der Klis 3

1 Space Research Organization Netherlands, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands (E.Kuulkers@sron.nl)
2 Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80000, 3507 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
3 University of Amsterdam, Astronomical Institute "Anton Pannekoek", and Center for High Energy Astrophysics, Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands (michiel@astro.uva.nl)

Received 21 February 2000 / Accepted 13 March 2000


During several observations in 1999 August with RXTE of the low-mass X-ray binary GX 3+1, we found a single short and strong X-ray burst. This is the first burst from GX 3+1 which clearly shows evidence for radius expansion of the neutron-star photosphere during the thermo-nuclear runaway. We show that the cooling phase of the neutron star photosphere starts already just before the end of the contraction phase. Considering the fact that the radius expansion is due to the burst luminosity being at the Eddington luminosity, assuming standard burst parameters and accounting for gravitational redshift effects we derive a distance to the source of [FORMULA]4.5 kpc, although relaxing these assumptions may lead to uncertainties up to [FORMULA]30%. By comparing the persistent flux with that observed at the peak of the burst we infer that near the time of the X-ray burst the persistent luminosity of GX 3+1 is [FORMULA]0.17 [FORMULA], confirming predictions from theoretical modeling of X-ray spectra of bright sources like GX 3+1.

Key words: accretion, accretion disks – stars: binaries: close – stars: individual: – stars: neutron – X-rays: bursts

Send offprint requests to: Erik Kuulkers

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: April 10, 2000