The lowest-mass stellar black holes: catastrophic death of neutron stars in gamma-ray bursts

K. Belczynski*, R. O'Shaughnessy, V. Kalogera, F. Rasio, R. E. Taam, T. Bulik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Mergers of double neutron stars are considered the most likely progenitors for short gamma-ray bursts. Indeed, such a merger can produce a black hole with a transient accreting torus of nuclear matter, and the conversion of a fraction of the torus mass-energy to radiation can power a gamma-ray burst. Using available binary pulsar observations supported by our extensive evolutionary calculations of double neutron star formation, we demonstrate that the fraction of mergers that can form a black hole-torus system depends very sensitively on the (largely unknown) maximum neutron star mass. We show that the available observations and models put a very stringent constraint on this maximum mass under the assumption that black hole formation is required to produce a short gamma-ray burst in a double neutron star merger. Specifically, we find that the maximum neutron star mass must be within 2-2.5 MȮ. Moreover, a single unambiguous measurement of a neutron star mass above 2.5 MȮ would exclude a black hole-torus central engine model of short gamma-ray bursts in double neutron star mergers. Such an observation would also indicate that if in fact short gamma-ray bursts are connected to neutron star mergers, the gamma-ray burst engine is best explained by the lesser known model invoking a highly magnetized massive neutron star.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L129-L132
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Binaries: Close
  • Black hole physics
  • Gravitational waves
  • Stars: Evolution stars: Neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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