The transient atoll source 4U 1608-52 was extensively observed by the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) during its 1998 outburst. We analyse its X-ray spectra as a function of inferred accretion rate from both the 1998 outburst and the 1996 and 1998 non-outburst data. We can fit all the spectra by a model in which seed photons from the neutron star surface are Comptonized in a boundary layer. The Comptonized emission illuminates the accretion disc surface, producing an ionized, relativistically broadened reflection signature, while the direct emission from the accretion disc can also be seen. The evolution of the source can be explained if the main parameter driving the spectral evolution is the average mass accretion rate, which determines the truncation radius of the inner accretion disc. At low mass accretion rates, in the island state, the disc truncates before reaching the neutron star surface and the inner accretion flow/boundary layer is mostly optically thin. The disc emission is at too low a temperature to be observed in the RXTE spectra, but some of the seed photons from the neutron star can be seen directly through the mostly optically thin boundary layer. At higher mass accretion rates, in the banana state, the disc moves in and the boundary layer becomes much more optically thick so its temperature drops. The disc can then be seen directly, but the seed photons from the neutron star surface cannot, as they are buried beneath the increasingly optically thick boundary layer.
- Accretion, accretion discs
- X-rays: binaries
- X-rays: individual: 4U 1608-52