Disc corona radii and QPO frequencies in black hole binaries: testing Lense- Thirring precession origin

Aya Kubota, Chris Done, Kazuki Tsurumi, Ryuki Mizukawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stellar-mass black hole binary systems in the luminous X-ray states show a strong quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) in their Comptonized emission. The frequency of this feature correlates with the ratio of a disc to Comptonized emission rather than with total luminosity. Hence, it changes dramatically during spectral transitions between the hard and soft states. Its amplitude is also strongest in these intermediate states, making them an important test of QPO models. However, these have complex spectra which generally require a disc and two separate Comptonization components, making it difficult to uniquely derive the spectral parameters. We build a new energy-conserving model of the accretion flow, SSsed model, which assumes a fixed radial emissivity but with a changing emission mechanism. This is similar to the agnsed model in xspec but tuned to be more suitable for stellar mass black holes. It uses a combination of the disc luminosity and temperature to constrain the inner radius of the (colour temperature corrected) blackbody disc, separating this from the more complex Comptonization spectra emitted inwards of this radius. We show a pilot study of this model fit to hundreds of RXTE spectra of the black hole binary XTE J1550 - 564. We show that the derived disc radius tightly anticorrelates with the central frequencies of the low-frequency QPO detected in the same observations. The relation is consistent with the quantitative predictions of Lense-Thirring precession of the entire inner Comptonization regions for the assumed system parameters. This supports the scenario that low-frequency QPOs are caused by Lense-Thirring precession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1668-1684
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Feb 1


  • X-rays: binaries
  • accretion, accretion discs
  • stars: individual (XTE J1550 - 564)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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