Vol 14, No 10 (2014) / Jithesh

Long term optical variability of bright X-ray point sources in elliptical galaxies

V. Jithesh, Ranjeev Misra, P. Shalima, K. Jeena, C. D. Ravikumar, B. R. S. Babu


We present long term optical variability studies of bright X-ray sources in four nearby elliptical galaxies with the Chandra Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer array (ACIS-S) and observations from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Advanced Camera for Surveys. Out of the 46 bright (X-ray counts > 60) sources that are in the common field of view of the Chandra and HST observations, 34 of them have potential optical counterparts, while the rest of them are optically dark. After taking into account systematic errors, estimated using optical sources in the field as a reference, we find that four of the X-ray sources (three in NGC 1399 and one in NGC 1427) have variable optical counterparts at a high level of significance. The X-ray luminosities of these sources are ~ 1038 erg s−1 and are also variable on similar time scales. The optical variability implies that the optical emission is associated with the X-ray source itself rather than being the integrated light from a host globular cluster. For one source, the change in optical magnitude is > 0.3, which is one of the highest reported for this class of X-ray sources and this suggests that the optical variability is induced by the X-ray activity. However, the optically variable sources in NGC 1399 have been reported to have blue colors (gz > 1). All four sources have been detected in the infrared (IR) by Spitzer as point sources, and their ratios of 5.8 to 3.6 μm flux are > 0.63, indicating that their IR spectra are like those of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs). While spectroscopic confirmation is required, it is likely that all four sources are background AGNs. We find none of the X-ray sources having optical/IR colors different from AGNs to be optically variable.


(Galaxy:) globular clusters: general — galaxies: photometry — X-rays: galaxies

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/1674-4527/14/10/004


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