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Astron. Astrophys. 338, L83-L86 (1998)

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Letter to the Editor

The millisecond X-ray pulsar/burster SAX J1808.4-3658: the outburst light curve and the power law spectrum

M. Gilfanov 1, 2, M. Revnivtsev * 2, R. Sunyaev 1, 2 and E. Churazov 1, 2

1 Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 1, 85740 Garching bei München, Germany
2 Space Research Institute,Russian Academy of Sciences, Profsoyuznaya 84/32, 117810 Moscow, Russia

Received 20 May 1998 / Accepted 30 August 1998


The X-ray light curve and broad band spectral properties of the millisecond X-ray pulsar/burster SAX J1808.4-3658 are reported. In the course of RXTE observations in April-May 1998 the 3-150 keV luminosity of the source decreased by a factor of [FORMULA] from the peak value of [FORMULA] erg/s (for a 4 kpc distance). However, the spectrum was remarkably stable and maintained a roughly power law shape with a photon index of [FORMULA] without a strong high energy cut-off below 100 keV, similar to that sometimes observed in the low spectral state of X-ray bursters. An approximation of the averaged spectrum with an exponentially cut-off power law with a superimposed reflected component yields the 90% lower limit on the e-folding energy [FORMULA] keV. We speculate that Comptonization on the bulk motion in the radiation dominated shock might be a possible mechanism of spectral formation. The decaying part of the X-ray light curve was cut off abruptly at luminosity [FORMULA] erg/s. Such behavior might be due to centrifugal inhibition of accretion (transition to the "propeller" regime) as well as to disk instability. In either case an upper limit on the neutron star magnetic field strength is [FORMULA] Gauss.

Key words: stars: neutron – stars: binaries: general – pulsars: general – pulsars: individual (SAX J1808.4-3658) – X-rays: bursts – X-rays: general

* visiting Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik

Send offprint requests to: M. Gilfanov

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: September 17, 1998