Formation- of low-mass X-ray binaries. II. Common envelope evolution of primordial binaries with extreme mass ratios

Vassiliki Kalogera, Ronald F. Webbink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the formation of low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) through helium star supernovae in binary systems that have each emerged from a common envelope phase.( LMXB) progenitors must satisfy a large number of evolutionary and structural constraints, including survival through common envelope evolution, through the post-common envelope phase, where the precursor of the neutron star becomes a Wolf-Rayet star, and survival through the supernova event. Furthermore, the binaries that survive the explosion must reach interaction within a Hubble time and must satisfy stability criteria for mass trans-fer. These constraints, imposed under the assumption of a symmetric supernova explosion, prohibit the formation of short-period LMXBs transferring mass at sub-Eddington rates through any channel in which the intermediate progenitor of the neutron star is not completely degenerate. Barring accretion-induced collapse, the existence of such systems therefore requires that natal kicks be imparted to neutron stars. We use an analytical method to synthesize the distribution of nascent LMXBs over donor masses and orbital periods and evaluate their birthrate and systemic velocity dispersion. Within the limitations imposed by observational incompleteness and selection effects, and our neglect of secular evolution in the LMXB state, we compare our results with observations. However, our principal objective is to evalu-ate how basic model parameters (common envelope ejection efficiency, rms kick velocity, primordial mass ratio distribution) influence these results. We conclude that the characteristics of newborn LMXBs are primarily determined by age and stability constraints and the efficiency of magnetic braking and are largely independent of the primordial binary population and the evolutionary history of LMXB progeni-tors (except for extreme values of the average kick magnitude or of the common envelope ejection efficiency). Theoretical estimates of total LMXB birthrates are not credible, since they strongly depend on the observationally indeterminate frequency of primordial binaries with extreme mass ratios in long-period orbits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-367
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART I
StatePublished - 1998


  • Binaries: close
  • Stars: evolution
  • Stars: interiors
  • Stars: neutron
  • X-rays: stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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