Simultaneous X-ray and γ-ray observations of Cyg X-1 in the hard state by Ginga and OSSE

Marek Gierliński (Lead / Corresponding author), Andrzej A. Zdziarski, Chris Done, W. Neil Johnson, Ken Ebisawa, Yoshihiro Ueda, Francesco Haardt, Bernard F. Phlips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

241 Citations (Scopus)


We present four X-ray/γ-ray spectra of Cyg X-1 observed in the hard ('low') state simultaneously by Ginga and GRO OSSE on 1991 June 6. The four spectra have almost identical spectral form but vary in normalization within a factor of 2. The 3-30 keV Ginga spectra are well represented by power laws with an energy spectral index of α ∼ 0.6 and a Compton reflection component including a fluorescent Fe Kα corresponding to the solid angle of the reflector of ∼0.3 × 2π. These spectra join smoothly on to the OSSE range (≥50 keV) and are then cut off above ∼ 150 keV. The overall spectra can be modelled by repeated Compton scattering in a mildly relativistic, thermal plasma with an optical depth of τ ∼ 1. However, the high-energy cut-off is steeper than that due to single-temperature thermal Comptonization. It can be described by a superposition of dominant τ ∼ 1-2, thermal emission at kT ∼ 100 keV and a Wien-like component from an optically thick plasma at kT ∼ 50 keV. 

The X-ray spectra do not show the presence of the anisotropy break required if thermal Compton scattering takes place in a corona above a cold disc. Also, the flat spectral index shows that the plasma is soft-photon starved, i.e., the luminosity in incident soft X-ray seed photons is very much less than that in the hard X-rays. Furthermore, the observed solid angle of the reflector is significantly less than 2π. These facts taken together strongly rule out a disc- corona geometry. Rather, the observed spectra are consistent with a geometry in which the cold accretion disc (which both supplies the seed soft X-rays and reflects hard X-rays) only exists at large radii, while the Comptonizing hot plasma is located in an inner region with no cold disc. This hot plasma consists of pure e ± pairs if the source size is ∼5 Schwarzschild radii or it also contains protons if the size is larger.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-964
Number of pages7
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1997


  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Gamma-rays: observations
  • Gamma-rays: theory
  • Stars: individual: cygnus X-1
  • X-rays: stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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