2022 journal article

Phase-resolved spectroscopic analysis of the eclipsing black hole X-ray binary M33 X-7: System properties, accretion, and evolution


By: V. Ramachandran*, L. Oskinova*, W. Hamann*, A. Sander*, H. Todt*, D. Pauli*, T. Shenar*, J. Torrejon* ...

author keywords: stars; black holes; stars; massive; stars; winds; outflows; X-rays; binaries; stars; fundamental parameters; stars; evolution
Source: Web Of Science
Added: November 21, 2022

M33 X-7 is the only known eclipsing black hole high mass X-ray binary. The system is reported to contain a very massive O supergiant donor and a massive black hole in a short orbit. The high X-ray luminosity and its location in the metal-poor galaxy M33 make it a unique laboratory for studying the winds of metal-poor donor stars with black hole companions and it helps us to understand the potential progenitors of black hole mergers. Using phase-resolved simultaneous HST- and XMM-Newton-observations, we traced the interaction of the stellar wind with the black hole. We observed a strong Hatchett-McCray effect in M33 X-7 for the full range of wind velocities. Our comprehensive spectroscopic investigation of the donor star (X-ray+UV+optical) yields new stellar and wind parameters for the system that differ significantly from previous estimates. In particular, the masses of the components are considerably reduced to ≈38 M⊙ for the O-star donor and ≈11.4 M⊙ for the black hole. The O giant is overfilling its Roche lobe and shows surface He enrichment. The donor shows a densely clumped wind with a mass-loss rate that matches theoretical predictions. An extended ionization zone is even present during the eclipse due to scattered X-ray photons. The X-ray ionization zone extends close to the photosphere of the donor during inferior conjunction. We investigated the wind-driving contributions from different ions and the changes in the ionization structure due to X-ray illumination. Toward the black hole, the wind is strongly quenched due to strong X-ray illumination. For this system, the standard wind-fed accretion scenario alone cannot explain the observed X-ray luminosity, pointing toward an additional mass overflow, which is in line with our acceleration calculations. The X-ray photoionization creates an He II emission region around the system emitting ∼1047 ph s−1. We computed binary evolutionary tracks for the system using MESA. Currently, the system is transitioning toward an unstable mass transfer phase, possibly resulting in a common envelope of the black hole and the O-star donor. Since the mass ratio is q ≳ 3.3 and the period is short, the system is unlikely to survive the common envelope, but will rather merge.