Discovery of Rapidly Moving Partial X-ray Absorbers within Gamma Cassiopeiae

Hamaguchi, K.; Oskinova, L.; Russell, C. M. P.; Petre, R.; Enoto, T.; Morihana, K.; Ishida, M.

Gamma Cassiopeiae is an enigmatic Be star with unusually strong hard X-ray emission. The Suzaku observatory detected six rapid X-ray spectral hardening events called "softness dips" in a ~100 ks observation in 2011. All the softness dip events show symmetric softness-ratio variations, and some of them have flat bottoms apparently due to saturation. The softness dip spectra are best described by either ~40% or ~70% partial covering absorption to kT ~ 12 keV plasma emission by matter with a neutral hydrogen column density of ~(2-8) 1021 cm-2, while the spectrum outside these dips is almost free of absorption. This result suggests the presence of two distinct X-ray-emitting spots in the γ Cas system, perhaps on a white dwarf (WD) companion with dipole mass accretion. The partial covering absorbers may be blobs in the Be stellar wind, the Be disk, or rotating around the WD companion. Weak correlations of the softness ratios to the hard X-ray flux suggest the presence of stable plasmas at kT ~ 0.9 and 5 keV, which may originate from the Be or WD winds. The formation of a Be star and WD binary system requires mass transfer between two stars; γ Cas may have experienced such activity in the past.

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