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Physics & Astronomy Colloquium – Spring 2020 – Walton
February 13, 2020 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Speaker: Dominic Walton (University of Cambridge)
Title: The Extremes of Accretion: Ultraluminous X-ray Sources and Super-Eddington Pulsars
Ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) are off-nuclear X-ray sources with luminosities that exceed the Eddington limit for stellar renmant black holes. This implied either the presence of larger, ‘intermediate mass’ black holes, or systems that had managed to violate their Eddington limits. Prior to NuSTAR, black hole accretors were widely assumed. In 2014, NuSTAR made the remarkable discovery that one of these systems, M82 X-2, was in fact powered by an accreting, pulsating neutron star (i.e., a pulsar), firmly demonstrating that this was a source radiating at ~100 times Eddington. However, much about these systems remains shrouded in mystery: it is not clear how significantly neutron star accretors contribute to the demographics of the overall ULX population, and it is also not understood how these sources are able to radiate at such extreme levels. As of today, roughly half a dozen neutron star ULXs are known, including systems radiating up to 500 times the Eddington limit. I will discuss the current state of this rapidly evolving field.