Sixteen years of X-ray monitoring of Sagittarius A*: Evidence for a decay of the faint flaring rate from 2013 August, 13 months before a rise in the bright flaring rate
1 Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg, Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, UMR 7550, 11 rue de l’Université, 67000 Strasbourg, France
2 Groupe d’Astrophysique des Hautes Énergies, Institut d’Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Université de Liège, Allée du 6 Août, 19c, Bât. B5c, 4000 Liège, Belgium
Received: 23 September 2016
Accepted: 23 April 2017
Context. X-ray flaring activity from the closest supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) located at the center of our Galaxy has been observed since 2000 October 26 thanks to the current generation of X-ray facilities. In a study of X-ray flaring activity from Sgr A* using Chandra and XMM-Newton public observations from 1999 to 2014 and Swift monitoring in 2014, it was argued that the “bright and very bright” flaring rate has increased from 2014 August 31.
Aims. As a result of additional observations performed in 2015 with Chandra, XMM-Newton, and Swift (total exposure of 482 ks), we seek to test the significance and persistence of this increase of flaring rate and to determine the threshold of unabsorbed flare flux or fluence leading to any change of flaring rate.
Methods. We reprocessed the Chandra, XMM-Newton, and Swift data from 1999 to 2015 November 2. From these data, we detected the X-ray flares via our two-step Bayesian blocks algorithm with a prior on the number of change points properly calibrated for each observation. We improved the Swift data analysis by correcting the effects of the target variable position on the detector and we detected the X-ray flares with a 3σ threshold on the binned light curves. The mean unabsorbed fluxes of the 107 detected flares were consistently computed from the extracted spectra and the corresponding calibration files, assuming the same spectral parameters. We constructed the observed distribution of flare fluxes and durations from the XMM-Newton and Chandra detections. We corrected this observed distribution from the detection biases to estimate the intrinsic distribution of flare fluxes and durations. From this intrinsic distribution, we determined the average flare detection efficiency for each XMM-Newton, Chandra, and Swift observation. We finally applied the Bayesian blocks algorithm on the arrival times of the flares corrected from the corresponding efficiency.
Results. We confirm a constant overall flaring rate from 1999 to 2015 and a rise in the flaring rate by a factor of three for the most luminous and most energetic flares from 2014 August 31, i.e., about four months after the pericenter passage of the Dusty S-cluster Object (DSO)/G2 close to Sgr A*. In addition, we identify a decay of the flaring rate for the less luminous and less energetic flares from 2013 August and November, respectively, i.e., about 10 and 7 months before the pericenter passage of the DSO/G2 and 13 and 10 months before the rise in the bright flaring rate.
Conclusions. The decay of the faint flaring rate is difficult to explain in terms of the tidal disruption of a dusty cloud since it occurred well before the pericenter passage of the DSO/G2, whose stellar nature is now well established. Moreover, a mass transfer from the DSO/G2 to Sgr A* is not required to produce the rise in the bright flaring rate since the energy saved by the decay of the number of faint flares during a long period of time may be later released by several bright flares during a shorter period of time.
Key words: Galaxy: center / X-rays: individuals: Sgr A*
© ESO, 2017