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Astron. Astrophys. 332, L9-L12 (1998)

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Letter to the Editor

The identification of the transient X-ray pulsar Cepheus X-4 with a Be/X-ray binary *

J.M. Bonnet-Bidaud 1 and M. Mouchet 2, 3

1 Service d'Astrophysique, CEA, DSM/DAPNIA/SAp, CE-Saclay, F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France (e-mail: bobi@sapvxg.saclay.cea.fr)
2 DAEC, Observatoire de Paris, Section de Meudon, F-92195 Meudon Cedex, France (e-mail: mouchet@obspm.fr)
3 Université Denis Diderot, 2 Place Jussieu, F-75005 Paris, France

Received 28 November 1997 / Accepted 20 January 1998


We present long slit spectral (375-725 nm) observations of the proposed identification of the transient 66s X-ray pulsar Cep X-4=GS2138+56. Spectra show features typical of Be/X-ray binaries. Superimposed on a weak emission from the IC 1396 nebula, strong H [FORMULA] (4.5 nm EW) and H [FORMULA] (0.3 nm EW) lines are seen in emission with the other Balmer lines in absorption. Significant interstellar absorption features are also detected, including a strong Na I doublet (589 nm) and diffuse bands at 443, 578 and 628 nm. From the shape of the continuum as well as the lines present in the spectrum, a most probable spectral type of B1-B2V is derived with a reddening of [FORMULA] =1.3 [FORMULA] 0.1. The reddening value is corroborated by the measure of interstellar absorption features, except for the sodium line which appears to be in excess and may be partly from circumstellar origin. The optical absorption is fully consistent with the column density derived from X-ray spectra, therefore confirming the identification. Despite apparent spatial coincidence, the source is located much further away than the local intervening nebula IC1396. The best estimate of the distance is D=(3.8 [FORMULA] 0.6) kpc, which places the source in the outer Perseus arm of the Galaxy. At this distance, the X-ray quiescent luminosity is (3-6) 1033 erg.s-1, thus comparable to typical Be/X-ray binary low states.

Key words: X-rays: binaries – stars: emission line Be – stars: pulsars: individual: Cep X-4

* Based on observations collected at the Observatoire de Haute-Provence, CNRS, France

Send offprint requests to: J.M. Bonnet-Bidaud

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: March 10, 1998