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Durham e-Theses
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Ultraluminous X-ray sources

SUTTON, ANDREW (2013) Ultraluminous X-ray sources. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) are accreting black holes with X-ray luminosities in excess of the Eddington limit for a typical ~10 solar mass Galactic black hole. There is an emerging consensus that most ULXs are probably fairly typical stellar remnant black holes in a new super-Eddington `ultraluminous' accretion state, characterised by a soft excess and high energy spectral curvature, which may be associated with a radiatively-driven wind and cool, optically thick Comptonisation respectively. However, this scenario may be insufficient to produce some of the most luminous ULXs. Here we present a sample of extreme luminosity ULXs, and show that their X-ray spectral and timing properties are consistent with most of them being in the sub-Eddington low/hard state. Given their luminosities, this suggests that these ULXs contain 10^3-10^4 solar mass black holes. But, in one of the extreme ULXs we find evidence of high energy spectral curvature, which is a key feature of the ultraluminous state. We explore this ULX further, and show that its X-ray spectrum is consistent with being in the ultraluminous state, but with any wind emission obscured from view by the high column density of material in the direction of the source. We also investigate the ultraluminous state further, and present an X-ray spectral and timing study of ULXs with some of the highest quality XMM-Newton data. We show that their spectral and timing properties are consistent with current models of super-Eddington accretion, where a massive, radiatively-driven wind forms a funnel-like geometry around the source. Then, the observed X-ray properties are dependant on both the accretion rate, and the inclination at which the ULX system is observed. Finally, we consider optical counterparts to a small sample of ULXs. We fit the X-ray and optical data of these with a new spectral model of an irradiated, colour-temperature-corrected accretion disc, finding that ~0.1 per cent of their bolometric luminosity is reprocessed in the outer disc. This may be due to the opposing effects of self-shielding in the accretion disc and reflection in a super-Eddington wind.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:ultraluminous X-ray sources, ULXs, X-ray astronomy, black holes, accretion physics, super-Eddington accretion
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Physics, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Dec 2013 12:18

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