On the iron interpretation of the 6.4 keV emission line from SGR 1900+14
A 6.4 keV emission line was discovered in an unusual burst from the soft gamma repeater SGR 1900+14 with the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). The line was detected in part of a complex multipeak precursor that preceded the unusual burst of 1998 August 29, i.e. two days after the giant flare of August 27 from the source. The origin of the line was not firmly identified and two possible interpretations were equally plausible including (a) Kα fluorescence from a small iron rich material that was ejected to the magnetosphere during the August 27 flare, and (b) proton or α-particle cyclotron resonance. If the iron scenario was correct, we expect to find evidence for the line during the intervening interval between the flare and the August 29 burst, i.e. on August 28. Here we present the results of the August 28 burst observation, taken with RXTE. We detect a total of seven bursts whose individual and joint spectra do not show evidence for spectral lines. We also investigated a sample of nine bursts before and after the August 29 burst (from 1998 June to December) that do not reveal evidence for a spectral line near 6.4 keV or elsewhere. These results disfavor the iron scenario and make the proton/α-particle cyclotron resonance interpretation more plausible. The appearance of the emission line in part of a complex burst and its absence from the studied sample indicate that the line is likely due to a transient phenomenon that may depend on the burst morphology, energetics and the properties of the emission region.
KeywordsGamma-rays: observations X-rays: observations Pulsars: individual SGR 1900+14 Pulsars: general
PACS95.85.Pw 95.85.Nv 96.12.Hg 97.60.Gb
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