Prospects of finding detached black hole-star binaries with TESS.
MASUDA K. and HOTOKEZAKA K.
Abstract (from CDS):
We discuss prospects of identifying and characterizing black hole (BH) companions to normal stars on tight but detached orbits, using photometric data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). We focus on the following two periodic signals from the visible stellar component: (i) in-eclipse brightening of the star due to gravitational microlensing by the BH (self-lensing), and (ii) a combination of ellipsoidal variations due to tidal distortion of the star and relativistic beaming due to its orbital motion (phase-curve variation). We evaluate the detectability of each signal in the light curves of stars in the TESS input catalog, based on a pre-launch noise model of TESS photometry as well as the actual light curves of spotted stars from the prime Kepler mission to gauge the potential impact of stellar activity arising from the tidally spun-up stellar components. We estimate that the self-lensing and phase-curve signals from BH companions, if they exist, will be detectable in the light curves of effectively O (105) and O (106) low-mass stars, respectively, taking into account orbital inclination dependence of the signals. These numbers could be large enough to actually detect signals from BHs: simple population models predict some 10 and 100 detectable BHs among these "searchable" stars; although, the latter may be associated with a comparable number of false positives due to stellar variabilities, and additional vetting with radial velocity measurements would be essential. Thus, the TESS data could serve as a resource to study nearby BHs with stellar companions on shorter-period orbits than will potentially be probed with Gaia.