Credit: I. Negueruela (University of Alicante, Spain) and artist's impression C. Carreau (ESA).
Land of the SuperGiants
In massive binaries one star dies before the other, leaving behind a lonely, massive companion and a neutron star. Because of the high mass of such systems, even the tremendous explosive power of a supernovae can't break the gravitational bonds binding the companions together. Such systems, schematically represented in the artist's impression above, can be hard to find, since the X-ray emission which usually identifies the presence of a neutron star can be absorbed by the dense expanding atmosphere of the companion. But observations at higher X-ray energies by the INTEGRAL observatory are helping astronomers to complete the census of such "super-giant" X-ray binaries. The X-ray lightcurve shown in the inset is an example of the variability such systems can exhibit.
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:28:21 EDT