Optical nebular emission following the most luminous outburst of Aquila X-1

Panizo-Espinar, G.; Muñoz-Darias, T.; Armas Padilla, M.; Jiménez-Ibarra, F.; Casares, J.; Mata Sánchez, D.
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Astronomy and Astrophysics

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Aquila X-1 is a prototypical neutron star low mass X-ray binary and one of the most studied X-ray transients. We present optical spectroscopy obtained with the Gran Telescopio Canarias (10.4 m) during the 2016 outburst, the brightest recorded in recent times and which showed a standard evolution with hard and soft accretion states. Our dataset includes a dense coverage of the brightest phases of the event, as well as the decay towards quiescence. We searched for optical winds by studying the profiles and evolution of the main emission lines and found no indisputable wind signatures, such as P-Cyg profiles. Nonetheless, our detailed analysis of the particularly strong and broad Hα emission line, detected at the end of the outburst, is consistent with the presence of a nebular phase produced by optically thin ejecta at ∼800 km s−1 or, alternatively, an extended disc atmosphere. We discuss these possibilities as well as the similarities with the phenomenology observed in other black hole and neutron star systems. Our study suggests that optical nebular phases might be a relatively common observational feature during the late stages of low mass X-ray binaries' outbursts, enabling us to probe the presence of outflows at low-to-intermediate orbital inclinations.
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