A population synthesis study of low-mass X-ray binary systems

James L. Terman*, Ronald E. Taam, Craig O. Savage

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The origin of low-mass X-ray binary systems from the helium star-main-sequence binary remnants of a common-envelope phase is studied. Using a statistical Monte Carlo approach, the evolution of an initial distribution of zero-age binaries is followed from the main sequence through a phase of common-envelope evolution and subsequent supernova explosion of the helium star. The resultant population of low-mass main-sequence stars ( ≲3 M) with a neutron star companion is studied as a function of the kick velocity associated with the possible asymmetry of the supernova explosion, the efficiency of mass ejection during the common-envelope phase, the minimum mass for evolution to a neutron star and the mass distribution of the secondary components in the system. A comparison of the results with the observed low-mass X-ray binary system population suggests that kick velocities are required. For an average kick velocity of ∼450 km s-1, as inferred from the radio pulsar distribution, birth rates in the range ∼3 × 10 6-10-5 yr-1 are indicated for efficiencies of the mass ejection process during the common-envelope phase of 0.25-1. The implications of the results for the general population of low-mass X-ray binaries, and for the formation of Her X-1 type systems and long-period detached systems similar to PSR 1820-11, are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-564
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996


  • Binaries: close
  • Stars: evolution
  • Stars: neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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