The Messenger Astronomical Science

Detecting Stripped Stars While Searching for Quiescent Black Holes

  • Bodensteiner, Julia [European Southern Observatory (ESO)]
  • Heida, Marianne [European Southern Observatory (ESO)]
  • Abdul-Masih, Michael [European Southern Observatory (ESO)]
  • Baade, Dietrich [European Southern Observatory (ESO)]
  • Banyard, Gareth [Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium]
  • Bowman, Dominic M. [Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium]
  • Fabry, Matthias [Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium]
  • Frost, Abigail [Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium]
  • Mahy, Laurent [Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium]
  • Marchant, Pablo [Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium]
  • Mérand, Antoine [European Southern Observatory (ESO)]
  • Reggiani, Maddalena [Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium]
  • Rivinius, Thomas [European Southern Observatory (ESO)]
  • Sana, Hugues [Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium]
  • Selman, Fernando [European Southern Observatory (ESO)]
  • Shenar, Tomer [Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands]

Astronomical Science

While the number of stellar-mass black holes detected in X-rays or as gravitational wave sources is steadily increasing, the known population remains orders of magnitude smaller than predicted by stellar evolution theory. A significant fraction of stellar-mass black holes is expected to hide in X-ray-quiet binaries where they are paired with a “normal” star. Although a handful of such quiescent black hole candidates have been proposed, the majority have been challenged by follow-up investigations. A confusion that emerged recently concerns binary systems that appear to contain a normal B-type star with an unseen companion, believed to be a black hole. On closer inspection, some of these seemingly normal B-type stars instead turn out to be stars stripped of most of their mass through an interaction with their binary companion, which in at least two cases is a rapidly rotating star rather than a compact object. These contaminants in the search for quiescent black holes are themselves extremely interesting objects as they represent a rare phase of binary evolution, and should be given special attention when searching for binaries hosting black holes in large spectroscopic studies.

Created: 2022-03-01/2022-03-31
7 pages

Cite this article:

Bodensteiner, J., Heida, M., Abdul-Masih, M., Baade, D., Banyard, G., Bowman, D., Fabry, M., Frost, A., Mahy, L., Marchant, P., Mérand, A., Reggiani, M., Rivinius, T., Sana, H., Selman, F., Shenar, T.; Detecting Stripped Stars While Searching for Quiescent Black Holes. The Messenger 186 (March 2022): 3–9.