Land of the SuperGiants December 14, 2005Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, European Space Agency, HEAPOW, Illustration, INTEGRAL observatory, Space Fotos, University of Alicante-Spain.
Credit: I. Negueruela (University of Alicante, Spain) and artist’s impression C. Carreau (ESA).
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.