The X-ray spectra of the luminous LMXBs in NGC 3379: Field and globular cluster sources

N. J. Brassington, G. Fabbiano, S. Blake, A. Zezas, L. Angelini, R. L. Davies, J. Gallagher, V. Kalogera, D. W. Kim, A. R. King, A. Kundu, G. Trinchieri, S. Zepf

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39 Scopus citations


From a deep multi-epoch Chandra observation of the elliptical galaxy NGC 3379 we report the spectral properties of eight luminous LMXBs (LX < 1.2 × 1038 erg s-1). We also present a set of spectral simulations, produced to aid the interpretation of low-count single-component spectral modeling. These simulations demonstrate that it is possible to infer the spectral states of X-ray binaries from these simple models and thereby constrain the properties of the source. Of the eight LMXBs studied, three reside within globular clusters (GCs) and one is a confirmed field source. Due to the nature of the luminosity cut, all sources are either neutron star (NS) binaries emitting at or above the Eddington luminosity or black hole (BH) binaries. The spectra from these sources are well described by single-component models, with parameters consistent with Galactic LMXB observations, where hard-state sources have a range in photon index of 1.5-1.9 and thermally dominant (TD) sources have inner-disk temperatures between ∼0.7 and 1.55 keV. The large variability observed in the brightest GC source (LX< 4×1038 erg s-1) suggests the presence of a BH binary. At its most luminous this source is observed in a TD state with kTin = 1.5 keV, consistent with a BH mass of ∼4M . This observation provides further evidence that GCs are able to retain such massive binaries. We also observed a source transitioning from a bright state (LX ∼ 1 × 1039 erg s-1), with prominent thermal and non-thermal components, to a less luminous hard state (LX = 3.8 × 1038 erg s-1, Λ = 1.85). In its high flux emission, this source exhibits a cool-disk component of ∼0.14 keV, similar to spectra observed in some ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs). Such a similarity indicates a possible link between "normal" stellar-mass BHs in a high accretion state and ULXs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1805-1823
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2010


  • Galaxies: individual (NGC 3379)
  • X-rays: binaries
  • X-rays: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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