CBA Center for Backyard Astrophysics



The remarkable rapid X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, and IR variability in the black hole XTE J1118+480

Robert Hynes, Carole Haswell, Wei Cui, Chris Shrader, Kieran O'Brien, Sylvain Chaty, David Skillman, Joseph Patterson, and Keith Horne

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

(accepted, in press)

The transient black hole binary XTE J1118+480 exhibited dramatic rapid variability at all wavelengths which were suitably observed during its 2000 April-July outburst. We examine time-resolved X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, and infrared data spanning the plateau phase of the outburst. We find that both X-ray and infrared bands show large amplitude variability. The ultraviolet and optical variability is more subdued, but clearly correlated with that seen in the X-rays. The ultraviolet, at least, appears to be dominated by the continuum, although the lines are also variable. Using the X-ray variations as a reference point, we find that the UV variability at long wavelengths occurs later than that at short wavelengths. Uncertainty in HST timing prohibits a determination of the absolute lag with respect to the X-rays, however. The transfer function is clearly not a delta-function, exhibiting significant repeatable structure. For the main signal we can rule out an origin in reprocessing on the companion star -- the lack of variation in the lags is not consistent with this given a relatively high orbital inclination. Weak reprocessing from the disc and/or companion star may be present, but is not required, and another component must dominate the variability. This could be variable synchrotron emission correlated with X-ray variability, consistent with our earlier interpretation of the IR flux as due to synchrotron emission rather than thermal disc emission. In fact the broad-band energy distribution of the variability from IR to X-rays is consistent with expectations of optically thin synchrotron emission. We also follow the evolution of the low-frequency quasi-periodic oscillation in X-rays, UV, and optical. Its properties at all wavelengths are similar indicating a common origin.

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