A High-Sensitivity Measurement of the MeV Gamma-Ray Spectrum of Cygnus X-1


The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) has observed the Cygnus region on several occasions since its launch in 1991. The data collected by the COMPTEL experiment on CGRO represent the mostsensitive observations to date of Cygnus X-1 in the 0.7530 MeV range. A spectrum accumulated by COMPTEL over 10 weeks of observation time shows significant evidence for emission extending out to severalMeV. We have combined these data with contemporaneous data from both BATSE and OSSE to produce a broadband -ray spectrum, corresponding to the low X-ray state of Cygnus X-1, extending from 50 keV up to 5 MeV. Although there is no evidence for any broad-linelike emissions in the MeV region, these data further confirm the presence of a hard tail at energies above several hundred keV. In particular, the spectrum at MeV energies can be described as a power law with a photon spectral index of = -3.2, with no evidence for a cutoff at high energies. For the 200 keV5 MeV spectrum, we provide a quantitative description of the underlying electron spectrum, in the context of a hybrid thermal/nonthermal model for the emission. The electron spectrum can be described by a thermal Maxwellian with a temperature of kTe = 86 keV and a nonthermal power-law component with a spectral index of pe = 4.5. The spectral data presented here should provide a useful basis for further theoretical modeling.


Space Science Center, Physics

Publication Date


Journal Title

The Astrophysical Journal


American Astronomical Society

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