A search for TeV gamma ray emission from X-ray binary stars
This work is concerned with the detection of pulsed TeV gamma ray emission from a number of X-ray binary systems by the use of the atmospheric Cerenkov technique. Chapters 1 and 2 give an overview of the development of gamma ray astronomy, with emphasis placed on progress made in the detection of TeV gamma rays by their Cerenkov radiation in the atmosphere. Chapters 3 and 4 describe the University of Durham atmospheric Cerenkov telescopes, which were used to make the observations reported in this work, and the standard data processing and analysis procedures adopted. The main part of the thesis deals with the application of these techniques to observations of five X-ray binaries. After a review of the properties of such objects in Chapter 5, Chapters 6 and 7 deal specifically with the results for two of the systems considered to be among the most likely candidates to give a detectable TeV photon flux; Centaurus X-3 and Vela X-1. A study of all data recorded on Cen X-3 over the course of six years suggests the presence of a weak gamma ray flux pulsed at the X-ray period. Previous reports of stronger emission near the ascending node of the orbit are confirmed here. For Vela X-1, the analysis of a dataset recorded during a single dark moon interval reveals evidence for two short outbursts of pulsed TeV gamma ray emission. Chapter 8 reports the series of observations made of SMC X-1, 4U1626-67 and X0G21-72, and upper limits are placed on the TeV gamma ray emission from each. Finally, the results reported here are compared with the predictions of a number of theoretical models, some of which are found to give good agreement with the limits and detections derived in this work. A discussion of the status of this field and future observational prospects is also given.