Probing the Interstellar Dust towards the Galactic Centre: Dust Scattering Halo around AX J1745.6-2901

AX J1745.6-2901 is an X-ray binary located at only 1.45 arcmin from Sgr A*, showcasing a strong X-ray dust scattering halo. We combine Chandra and XMM-Newton observations to study the halo around this X-ray binary. Our study shows two major thick dust layers along the line of sight (LOS) towards AX J1745.6-2901. The LOS position and $N_{H}$ of these two layers depend on the dust grain models with different grain size distribution and abundances. But for all the 19 dust grain models considered, dust Layer-1 is consistently found to be within a fractional distance of 0.11 (mean value: 0.05) to AX J1745.6-2901 and contains only (19-34)% (mean value: 26%) of the total LOS dust. The remaining dust is contained in Layer-2, which is distributed from the Earth up to a mean fractional distance of 0.64. A significant separation between the two layers is found for all the dust grain models, with a mean fractional distance of 0.31. Besides, an extended wing component is discovered in the halo, which implies a higher fraction of dust grains with typical sizes $\lesssim$ 590 \AA\ than considered in current dust grain models. Assuming AX J1745.6-2901 is 8 kpc away, dust Layer-2 would be located in the Galactic disk several kpc away from the Galactic Centre (GC). The dust scattering halo biases the observed spectrum of AX J1745.6-2901 severely in both spectral shape and flux, and also introduces a strong dependence on the size of the instrumental point spread function and the source extraction region. We build Xspec models to account for this spectral bias, which allow us to recover the intrinsic spectrum of AX J1745.6-2901 free from dust scattering opacity. If dust Layer-2 also intervenes along the LOS to Sgr A* and other nearby GC sources, a significant spectral correction for the dust scattering opacity would be necessary for all these GC sources.

Comments: 20 pages, 18 figures, 5 tables, accepted for publication in MNRAS

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