X-ray source populations in the Galactic Plane

Astronomy and Astrophysics – Astrophysics

Scientific paper

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21 pages, 15 figures, accepted by MNRAS

Scientific paper


We present the first results from the \xmm Galactic Plane Survey (XGPS). In the first phase of the programme, 22 pointings were used to cover a region of approximately three square degrees between 19\deg -- 22\deg in Galactic longitude and $\pm$0.6\deg in latitude. In total we have resolved over 400 point X-ray sources, at $\geq 5 \sigma$ significance, down to a flux limit of $\sim2 \times 10^{-14}$ \ergseccm (2--10 keV). The combination of the XGPS measurements in the hard X-ray band with the results from earlier surveys carried out by \asca and \chan reveals the form of the low-latitude X-ray source counts over 4 decades of flux. It appears that extragalactic sources dominate below $\sim10^{-13}$ \ergseccm (2--10 keV), with a predominantly Galactic source population present above this flux threshold. The nature of the faint Galactic population observed by \xmm remains uncertain, although cataclysmic variables and RS CVn systems may contribute substantially. \xmm observes an enhanced surface brightness in the Galactic plane in the 2--6 keV band associated with Galactic Ridge X-ray Emission (GRXE). The integrated contribution of Galactic sources plus the breakthrough of extragalactic signal accounts for up to 20 per cent of the observed surface brightness. The XGPS results are consistent with the picture suggested from a deep \chan observation in the Galactic plane, namely that the bulk of the GRXE is truly diffuse.

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