Back to Volume
Paper: The Chandra View of X-ray Binaries
Volume: 262, The High Energy Universe at Sharp Focus: Chandra Science
Page: 215
Authors: Vrtilek, S. D.
Abstract: The proximity of X-ray binaries and their consequent brightness at many wavelengths, coupled with our knowledge of their fundamental physical parameters, makes them a key to our understanding of the process of accretion, an efficient mechanism of energy release that is ubiquitous on all scales in the Universe, from individual stellar systems to the most luminous quasars and galactic nuclei. In addition, X-ray binaries are an important testing ground for our understanding of fundamental questions in gravitation theory, the final stages of stellar evolution, the origin and evolution of binary systems, and the behavior of matter under extreme conditions. Chandra's high sensitivity and long orbit enables it to see even the faintest Galactic X-ray binaries and to follow changes in the bright ones around the binary orbit. This talk will present highlights from the more than 25 X-ray binary systems that have been observed by Chandra in its first eighteen months. Chandra's unprecedented spatial resolution and sensitivity has enabled it to determine luminosity functions for entire classes of X-ray binaries as observed in other galaxies and in globular clusters within our own and nearby galaxies, and to measure and analyze scattering halos around X-ray binaries at an accuracy high enough to provide a new method for measuring cosmic distances. In addition to the sharp focus provided by its spatial resolution, Chandra's spectral resolution has enabled it to provide direct spectroscopic constraints on the chemical state of interstellar matter by measuring absorption lines in X-ray binaries, to measure the speed of a powerful X-ray wind with the first detection of X-ray P Cygni features, and to determine the size and separation of the jet material in galactic microquasars by measuring X-ray line velocities to an accuracy comparable to that of optical spectroscopy.
Back to Volume