Optical spectroscopy and photometry of SAX J1808.4-3658 in outburst

P. Elebert, M. T. Reynolds, P. J. Callanan, D. J. Hurley, G. Ramsay, F. Lewis, D. M. Russell, B. Nord, S. R. Kane, D. L. Depoy, P. Hakala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present phase resolved optical spectroscopy and photometry of V4580 Sagittarii, the optical counterpart to the accretion powered millisecond pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658, obtained during the 2008 September/October outburst. Doppler tomography of the N iii λ4640.64 Bowen blend emission line reveals a focused spot of emission at a location consistent with the secondary star. The velocity of this emission occurs at 324 ± 15 km s-1; applying a 'K-correction', we find the velocity of the secondary star projected on to the line of sight to be 370 ± 40 km s-1. Based on existing pulse timing measurements, this constrains the mass ratio of the system to be 0.044+0.005-0.004, and the mass function for the pulsar to be 0.44+0.16-0.13 M. Combining this mass function with various inclination estimates from other authors, we find no evidence to suggest that the neutron star in SAX J1808.4-3658 is more massive than the canonical value of 1.4 M. Our optical light curves exhibit a possible superhump modulation, expected for a system with such a low mass ratio. The equivalent width of the Ca ii H and K interstellar absorption lines suggest that the distance to the source is ∼2.5 kpc. This is consistent with previous distance estimates based on type-I X-ray bursts which assume cosmic abundances of hydrogen, but lower than more recent estimates which assume helium-rich bursts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)884-894
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Binaries: close
  • Pulsars: individual: SAX J1808.4-3658
  • Stars: individual: V4580 Sagittarii
  • Stars: neutron
  • X-rays: binaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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