Phase-resolved spectroscopic analysis of the eclipsing black hole X-ray binary M33 X-7: System properties, accretion, and evolution

V. Ramachandran, L. M. Oskinova, W.-R. Hamann, A. A. C. Sander, H. Todt, D. Pauli, T. Shenar, J. M. Torrejón, K. A. Postnov, J. M. Blondin, E. Bozzo, R. Hainich, D. Massa

M33 X-7 is the only known eclipsing black hole high mass X-ray binary. The system is reported to contain a very massive O supergiant donor and a massive black hole in a short orbit. The high X-ray luminosity and its location in the metal-poor galaxy M33 make it a unique laboratory for studying the winds of metal-poor donor stars with black hole companions and it helps us to understand the potential progenitors of black hole mergers. Using phase-resolved simultaneous HST- and XMM-Newton-observations, we traced the interaction of the stellar wind with the black hole. Our comprehensive spectroscopic investigation of the donor star (X-ray+UV+optical) yields new stellar and wind parameters for the system that differs significantly from previous estimates. In particular, the masses of the components are considerably reduced to 38 for the O-star donor and 11.4 for the black hole. The O giant is overfilling its Roche lobe and shows surface He enrichment. The donor shows a densely clumped wind with a mass-loss rate that matches theoretical predictions. We investigated the wind-driving contributions from different ions and the changes in the ionization structure due to X-ray illumination. Toward the black hole, the wind is strongly quenched due to strong X-ray illumination. For this system, the standard wind-fed accretion scenario alone cannot explain the observed X-ray luminosity, pointing toward an additional mass overflow, which is in line with our acceleration calculations. The X-ray photoionization creates an He II emission region emitting 1047 ph/s. We computed binary evolutionary tracks for the system using MESA. Currently, the system is transitioning toward an unstable mass transfer phase, resulting in a common envelope of the black hole and donor. Since the mass ratio is q ~3.3 and the period is short, the system is unlikely to survive the common envelope, but will rather merge.

Preprint (varsha-m33-x7.pdf, 1.3MB)

Back to publication list