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Cyclotron line and wind studies of galactic high mass X- ray binaries


High mass X-ray binaries are rotating neutron stars with very strong magnetic fields that channel accreting matter from their companion star onto the magnetic poles with subsequent collimated X-ray emission. The stars are fed either by a strong stellar wind of the optical companion or by an accretion disk, where material follows the magnetic field lines, emitting X-rays throughout this process either in the accretion column or directly from the neutron star surface. The fast rotation and the narrow collimation of the X-ray emission creates an observed pulsation, forming the concept of a pulsar. Some of the key questions of these thesis are the emission processes above the magnetic pole, including the influence of the magnetic field, the formation of the X-ray beam, and the structure of the stellar wind. An important process is the effect of the teraGauss magnetic field. Cyclotron resonance scattering creates spectral features similar to broad absorption lines (CRSFs or cyclotron lines) that are directly related to the magnetic field. The discovery of cyclotron lines ̃ 35 years ago allows for the only direct method to measure the magnetic field strength in neutron star systems. Variations in the line parameters throughout the pulse phase, and a dependence in the observed luminosity can also aid in the understanding of these processes. In this thesis I present the results of phase averaged and phase resolved analysis of the three high mass X-ray binaries CenX-3, 1A1118-61, and GX301-2. The data used for this work were obtained with NASA's Rossi X- ray Timing Explorer and the Japanese Suzaku mission. Both satellites are ideal to cover the broad energy band, where CRSFs occur and are necessary for understanding the continuum as a whole. In the process of investigating the 3 sources, I discovered a CRSF at ̃ 55 keV in the transient binary 1A1118-61, which indicates one of the strongest magnetic fields known in these objects. I used the variations of the CRSF in GX 301-2 throughout its pulse phase to develop a simple dipole model of the relationship between the magnetic moment vector and the spin axis of the neutron star. In Cen X-3 I use a similar model to demonstrate that the magnetic field most likely includes higher orders than just the simple dipole. The use of a wind model in high mass X-ray binaries can give information about the type of accretion, disk or wind, and the structure of the wind by measuring the amount of the material in the line of sight versus orbital phase. In Cen X-3, I used a simple spherical wind model throughout the two binary orbits and found that the observed absorption column densities are not consistent with pure wind accretion, and that either an accretion wake or a disk are needed to be consistent with the data. Similar results were observed in GX 301-2, where the neutron star may have passed through an accretion stream, increasing the observed amount of absorbed material

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