Institute of Astronomy

Nature of the Extreme Ultraluminous X-ray Sources

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Grzegorz Wiktorowicz28 July 2016Binary Stars Talks


In this proof-of-concept study we demonstrate that in a binary system mass can be transferred toward an accreting compact object at extremely high rate. If the transferred mass is efficiently converted to X-ray luminosity (with disregard of the classical Eddington limit) or if the X-rays are focused into a narrow beam then binaries can form extreme ULX sources with the X-ray luminosity of Lx >= 10^42 erg/s. For example, Lasota & King argued that the brightest known ULX (HLX-1) is a regular binary system with a rather low-mass compact object (a stellar-origin black hole or a neutron star).

The predicted formation efficiencies and lifetimes of binaries with the very high mass transfer rates are large enough to explain all observed systems with extreme X-ray luminosities. These systems are not only limited to binaries with stellar-origin black hole accretors. Noteworthy, we have also identified such objects with neutron stars. Typically, a 10 Msun black hole is fed by a massive (10 Msun) Hertzsprung gap donor with Roche lobe overflow rate of ~10^-3 Msun/yr (~ 2600 Mdot_Edd). For neutron star systems the typical donors are evolved low-mass (~2 Msun) helium stars with Roche lobe overflow rate of ~ 10^-2 Msun/yr.

Our study does not prove that any particular extreme ULX is a regular binary system, but it demonstrates that any ULX, including the most luminous ones, may potentially be a short-lived phase in the life of a binary star.