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Physics  2014 

Multiwavelength search for counterparts of supersoft X-ray sources in M31

DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stu1145

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We searched optical/UV/IR counterparts of seven supersoft X-ray sources (SSS) in M31 in the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) "Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury" (PHAT) archival images and photometric catalog. Three of the SSS were transient, the other four are persistent sources. The PHAT offers the opportunity to identify SSS hosting very massive white dwarfs that may explode as type Ia supernovae in single degenerate binaries, with magnitudes and color indexes typical of symbiotic stars, high mass close binaries, or systems with optically luminous accretion disks. We find evidence that the transient SSS were classical or recurrent novae; two likely counterparts we identified are probably symbiotic binaries undergoing mass transfer at a very high rate. There is a candidate accreting white dwarf binary in the error circle of one of the persistent sources, r3-8. In the spatial error circle of the best studied SSS in M31, r2-12, no red giants or AGB stars are sufficiently luminous in the optical and UV bands to be symbiotic systems hosting an accreting and hydrogen burning white dwarf. This SSS has a known modulation of the X-ray flux with a 217.7 s period, and we measured an upper limit on its derivative, 0.82 x 10(-11). This limit can be reconciled with the rotation period of a white dwarf accreting at high rate in a binary with a few-hours orbital period. However, there is no luminous counterpart with color indexes typical of an accretion disk irradiated by a hot central source. Adopting a semi-empirical relationship, the upper limit for the disk optical luminosity implies an upper limit of only 169 minutes for the orbital period of the white dwarf binary.


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