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Long-term pulse period evolution of the ultra-luminous X-ray pulsar NGC 7793 P13

Fuerst, F.; Walton, D.J.; Heida, M.; Bachetti, M.; Pinto, C.; Middleton, M.J.; Brightman, M.; Earnshaw, H.P.; Barret, D.; Fabian, A.C.; Kretschmar, P.; Pottschmidt, K.; Ptak, A.; Roberts, T.; Stern, D.; Webb, N.; Wilms, J.

Long-term pulse period evolution of the ultra-luminous X-ray pulsar NGC 7793 P13 Thumbnail


F. Fuerst

D.J. Walton

M. Heida

M. Bachetti

C. Pinto

M.J. Middleton

M. Brightman

H.P. Earnshaw

D. Barret

A.C. Fabian

P. Kretschmar

K. Pottschmidt

A. Ptak

D. Stern

N. Webb

J. Wilms


Ultra-luminous X-ray pulsars (ULXPs) provide a unique opportunity to study persistent super-Eddington accretion. Here we present the results of a long-term monitoring campaign of ULXP NGC 7793 P13, focusing on the pulse period evolution and the determination of the orbital ephemeris. Over our four year monitoring campaign with Swift, XMM-Newton, and NuSTAR, we measured a continuous spin-up with an average value of Ṗ ≈ −3.8 × 10−11 s s−1. We find that the strength of the spin-up is independent of the observed X-ray flux, indicating that despite a drop in observed flux in 2019, accretion onto the source has continued at largely similar rates. The source entered an apparent off-state in early 2020, which might have resulted in a change in the accretion geometry as no pulsations were found in observations in July and August 2020. We used the long-term monitoring to update the orbital ephemeris, as well as the periodicities seen in both the observed optical and UV magnitudes and the X-ray fluxes. We find that the optical and UV period is very stable over the years, with PUV = 63.75−0.12+0.17 d. The best-fit orbital period determined from our X-ray timing results is 64.86 ± 0.19 d, which is almost a day longer than previously implied, and the X-ray flux period is 65.21 ± 0.15 d, which is slightly shorter than previously measured. The physical origin of these different flux periods is currently unknown. We study the hardness ratio of the XMM-Newton and NuSTAR data between 2013−2020 to search for indications of spectral changes. We find that the hardness ratios at high energies are very stable and not directly correlated with the observed flux. At lower energies we observe a small hardening with increased flux, which might indicate increased obscuration through outflows at higher luminosities. Comparing the changes in flux with the observed pulsed fraction, we find that the pulsed fraction is significantly higher at low fluxes. This seems to imply that the accretion geometry already changed before the source entered the deep off-state. We discuss possible scenarios to explain this behavior, which is likely driven by a precessing accretion disk.


Fuerst, F., Walton, D., Heida, M., Bachetti, M., Pinto, C., Middleton, M., …Wilms, J. (2021). Long-term pulse period evolution of the ultra-luminous X-ray pulsar NGC 7793 P13. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 651, Article A75.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 28, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 16, 2021
Publication Date 2021-07
Deposit Date May 26, 2021
Publicly Available Date Dec 14, 2021
Journal Astronomy & Astrophysics
Print ISSN 0004-6361
Electronic ISSN 1432-0746
Publisher EDP Sciences
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 651
Article Number A75
Related Public URLs


Published Journal Article (1.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
Fuerst, F., Walton, D. J., Heida, M., Bachetti, M., Pinto, C., Middleton, M. J., Brightman, M., Earnshaw, H. P., Barret, D., Fabian, A. C., Kretschmar, P., Pottschmidt, K., Ptak, A., Roberts, T., Stern, D., Webb, N. & Wilms, J. (2021). Long-term pulse period evolution of the ultra-luminous X-ray pulsar NGC 7793 P13. Astronomy & Astrophysics 651: A75. reproduced with permission, © ESO.

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