Research objectives and content
The advent of X-ray all-sky monitors has led to the establishment of a substantial subclass of compact binaries called Soft X-ray Transients (SXTs) which provide by far the best evidence for the existence of stellar-mass black holes. In the past 4 years, our group has made fundamental contributions to this field with the discovery of the two best black hole candidates (in 1992 and 1995) and the first accurate mass determinations. In addition, we have detected unusually high lithium abundances in the SXT companion stars. We plan to continue our successful program of SXT analysis with both existing and newly discovered systems from forthcoming missions (XTE, SAX...). Our aim is to characterize the different neutron-star/black-hole populations and extract statistical information to define their properties and evolutionary tracks (such as the distribution of compact object masses, mass ratios, Li abundances, etc...). Our second focus of interest is the behaviour of the accretion disc in the quiescentoutburst cycle and the as-yet undetermined origin of the eruptions themselves, using Doppler imaging techniques. As a side project we will attempt to confirm our pro-posed magnetic-flow scenario for the accretion geometry of SW Sex stars, a subclass of cataclysmic variables.
Training content (objectives benefit and expected impact)
Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)