Evidence for the magnetar nature of 1E 161348-5055 in RCW 103 [HEAP]


We report on the detection of a bright, short, hard X-ray burst coming from the supernova remnant RCW 103 on 2016 June 22 caught by the \emph{Swift}/BAT monitor, and on a follow-up campaign made with \emph{Swift}/XRT and the optical/NIR GROND detector. The characteristics of the flash, such as duration and spectral shape, are consistent with typical bursts observed from soft gamma repeaters. The BAT error circle at 68\% confidence range encloses the point-like X-ray source at the centre of the nebula, 1E 161348-5055. Its nature has been long debated because of a periodicity of 6.67 hr in X-rays, that could indicate either an extremely slow pulsating neutron star, or an orbital period of a very compact X-ray binary system. We found that the soft X-ray emission of 1E 161348-5055, 20 minutes earlier than the BAT detected burst, was already a factor $\sim$ 100 higher with respect to the past two years, indicating that an outburst had started. By comparing the spectral and timing characteristics of the source in the two years before the outburst and after the BAT event, we find that, besides a change in luminosity and spectral shape, also the 6.67 hr pulsed profile has significantly changed with a clear phase shift with respect to its low-flux profile. The optical/NIR observations did not reveal any counterpart at the position of 1E 161348-5055. Based on these findings, we associate the BAT burst with 1E 161348-5055, we classify it as a magnetar, and pinpoint the 6.67 hr periodicity as the magnetar’s spin period.

Read this paper on arXiv…

A. DAi, P. Evans, D. Burrows, et. al.
Fri, 15 Jul 16

Comments: 8 pages, submitted MNRAS