On the rarity of X-ray binaries with naked helium donors

T. Linden*, F. Valsecchi, V. Kalogera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The paucity of known high-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs) with naked He donor stars (hereafter He star) in the Galaxy has been noted over the years as a surprising fact, given the significant number of Galactic HMXBs containing H-rich donors, which are expected to be their progenitors. This contrast has further sharpened in light of recent observations uncovering a preponderance of HMXBs hosting loosely bound Be donors orbiting neutron stars (NSs), which would be expected to naturally evolve into He-HMXBs through dynamical mass transfer onto the NS and a common-envelope (CE) phase. Hence, reconciling the large population of Be-HMXBs with the observation of only one He-HMXB can help constrain the dynamics of CE physics. Here, we use detailed stellar structure and evolution models and show that binary mergers of HMXBs during CE events must be common in order to resolve the tension between these observed populations. We find that, quantitatively, this scenario remains consistent with the typically adopted energy parameterization of CE evolution, yielding expected populations which are not at odds with current observations. However, future observations which better constrain the underlying population of loosely bound O/B-NS binaries are likely to place significant constraints on the efficiency of CE ejection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012


  • Be
  • X-rays: binaries
  • galaxies: starburst
  • stars: Wolf-Rayet
  • stars: emission-line

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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