Theory and observations of Type I X-Ray bursts from neutron stars

Bildsten, Lars
June 2000
AIP Conference Proceedings;2000, Vol. 522 Issue 1, p359
Academic Journal
I review our understanding of the thermonuclear instabilities on accreting neutron stars that produce Type I X-Ray bursts. I emphasize those observational and theoretical aspects that should interest the broad audience of this meeting. The easily accessible timescales of the bursts (durations of tens of seconds and recurrence times of hours to days) allow for a very stringent comparison to theory. The largest discrepancy (which was found with EXOSAT observations) is the accretion rate dependence of the Type I burst properties. Bursts become less frequent and energetic as the global accretion rate (M.) increases, just the opposite of what the spherical theory predicts. I present a resolution of this issue by taking seriously the observed dependence of the burning area on M., which implies that as M. increases, the accretion rate per unit area decreases. This resurrects the unsolved problem of knowing where the freshly accreted material accumulates on the star, equally relevant to the likely signs of rotation during the bursts summarized by Swank at this meeting. I close by highlighting the Type I bursts from GS 1826-238 that were found with BeppoSAX and RXTE. Their energetics, recurrence times and temporal profiles clearly indicate that hydrogen is being burned during these bursts, most likely by the rapid-proton (rp) process. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.


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