Spreading of Thermonuclear Flames on the Neutron Star in SAX J1808.4-3658: An Observational Tool
We analyse archival Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) proportional counter array (PCA) data of thermonuclear X-ray bursts from the 2002 outburst of the accreting millisecond pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658. We present evidence of nonmonotonic variations of oscillation frequency during burst rise, and correlations among the time evolution of the oscillation frequency, amplitude, and the inferred burning region area. We also discuss that the amplitude and burning region area evolutions are consistent
... s are consistent with thermonuclear flame spreading on the neutron star surface. Based on this discussion, we infer that for the 2002 Oct. 15 thermonuclear burst, the ignition likely occured in the mid-latitudes, the burning region took ~ 0.2 s to nearly encircle the equatorial region of the neutron star, and after that the lower amplitude oscillation originated from the remaining asymmetry of the burning front in the same hemisphere where the burst ignited. Our observational findings and theoretical discussion indicate that studies of the evolution of burst oscillation properties during burst rise can provide a powerful tool to understand thermonuclear flame spreading on neutron star surfaces under extreme physical conditions.