Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 622, L3-3 (2019/2-1)
Wind Roche lobe overflow in high-mass X-ray binaries. A possible mass-transfer mechanism for ultraluminous X-ray sources.
EL MELLAH I., SUNDQVIST J.O. and KEPPENS R.
Abstract (from CDS):
Ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) have such high X-ray luminosities that they were long thought to be accreting intermediate-mass black holes. Yet, some ULXs have been shown to display periodic modulations and coherent pulsations suggestive of a neutron star in orbit around a stellar companion and accreting at super-Eddington rates. In this Letter, we propose that the mass transfer in ULXs could be qualitatively the same as in supergiant X-ray binaries (SgXBs), with a wind from the donor star highly beamed towards the compact object. Since the star does not fill its Roche lobe, this mass transfer mechanism known as "wind Roche lobe overflow" can remain stable even for large donor-star-to-accretor mass ratios. Based on realistic acceleration profiles derived from spectral observations and modeling of the stellar wind, we compute the bulk motion of the wind to evaluate the fraction of the stellar mass outflow entering the region of gravitational predominance of the compact object. The density enhancement towards the accretor leads to mass-transfer rates systematically much larger than the mass-accretion rates derived by the Bondi-Hoyle-Lyttleton formula. We identify orbital and stellar conditions for a SgXBs to transfer mass at rates necessary to reach the ULX luminosity level. These results indicate that Roche-lobe overflow is not the only way to funnel large quantities of material into the Roche lobe of the accretor. With the stellar mass-loss rates and parameters of M101 ULX-1 and NGC 7793 P13, wind Roche-lobe overflow can reproduce mass-transfer rates that qualify an object as an ULX.