GRS 1915+105: The distance, radiative processes and energy-dependent variability

Andrzej A. Zdziarski (Lead / Corresponding author), Marek Gierliński (Lead / Corresponding author), A. R. Rao, S. V. Vadawale, Joanna Mikolajewska

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55 Citations (Scopus)


We present an exhaustive analysis of five broad-band observations of GRS 1915+105 in two variability states, x and ω, observed simultaneously by the Proportional Counter Array (PCA) and High-Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE) detectors aboard the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, and the Oriented Scintillation Spectrometer Experiment (OSSE) detector aboard the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory. We find all the spectra well fitted by Comptonization of disc blackbody photons, with very strong evidence for the presence of a non-thermal electron component in the Comptonizing plasma. Both the energy and the power spectra in the x state are typical of the very high/intermediate state of black hole binaries. The spectrum of the ω state is characterized by a strong blackbody component Comptonized by thermal electrons and a weak non-thermal tail. We then calculate rms spectra (fractional variability as functions of energy) for the PCA data. We accurately model the rms spectra by coherent superposition of variability in the components implied by the spectral fits, namely a less variable blackbody and more variable Comptonization. The latter dominates at high energies, resulting in a flattening of the rms at high energies in most of the data. This is also the case for the spectra of the quasiperiodic oscillations present in the x state. Then, some of our data require a radial dependence of the rms of the disc blackbody. We also study the distance to the source, and find d ≃ 11 kpc as the most likely value, contrary to a recent claim of a much lower value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-838
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2005


  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Binaries: general
  • Black hole physics
  • Radiation mechanisms: non-thermal
  • Stars: individual: GRS 1915+105
  • X-rays: Stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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