Further constraints on thermal quiescent X-ray emission from SAX J1808.4-3658

C. O. Heinke*, P. G. Jonker, R. Wijnands, C. J. Deloye, Ronald E Taam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


We observed SAX J1808.4-3658 (1808), the first accreting millisecond pulsar, in deep quiescence with XMM-Newton and (near simultaneously) Gemini-South. The X-ray spectrum of 1808 is similar to that observed in quiescence in 2001 and 2006, describable by an absorbed power law with photon index 1.74 ± 0.11 and unabsorbed X-ray luminosity LX = 7.9 ± 0.7 × 1031 ergs s-1, for NH = 1.3 × 10 21 cm-2. Fitting all the quiescent XMM-Newton X-ray spectra with a power law, we constrain any thermally emitting neutron star (NS) with a hydrogen atmosphere to have a temperature less than 30 eV and L NS (0.01-10 keV) <6.2 × 1030 ergs s-1. A thermal plasma model also gives an acceptable fit to the continuum. Adding an NS component to the plasma model produces less stringent constraints on the NS; a temperature of 36+4 -8 eV and L NS (0.01-10 keV) = 1.3+0.6 -0.8 × 1031 ergs s-1. In the framework of the current theory of NS heating and cooling, the constraints on the thermal luminosity of 1808 and 1H 1905+000 require strongly enhanced cooling in the cores of these NSs. We compile data from the literature on the mass transfer rates and quiescent thermal flux of the largest possible sample of transient NS low-mass X-ray binaries. We identify a thermal component in the quiescent spectrum of the accreting millisecond pulsar IGR J00291+5934, which is consistent with the standard cooling model. The contrast between the cooling rates of IGR J00291+5934 and 1808 suggests that 1808 may have a significantly larger mass. This can be interpreted as arising from differences in the binary evolution history or initial NS mass in these otherwise similar systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1041
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2009


  • X-rays: binaries
  • dense matter
  • pulsars: general
  • stars: neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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