The optical counterparts of the luminous x-ray binary stars in globular clusters
Ten percent of our Galaxy's luminous (LX≳1036 ergs-1 ) X-ray point sources are located in globular clusters (GCs), but globular clusters contribute a much smaller fraction of normal stars to the Galaxy. X-ray bursts have been observed from nearly all of them, indicating that these sources are low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB) systems containing a neutron star and a companion star from which matter is being transferred. The understanding of LMXB overabundance in globular clusters may well lead to important insights into the formation and evolution of these exotic binary systems as well as the dynamics of globular clusters themselves. The goals of this dissertation are to identify the optical counterparts to some GC LMXBs without previously identified counterparts, bring together and compare in the most homogeneous fashion all available Hubble Space Telescope (HST) optical observations of the current crop of GC LMXB counterparts, and discuss the, implications for cluster dynamics and LMXB systems in general.In this work, candidates for three additional optical counterparts to luminous X-ray binaries in globular clusters are presented, thereby doubling the number of optical counterpart candidates. Two are very likely correct although require additional work to confirm the identifications, while the third remains somewhat tentative due to the positional discrepancy with the X-ray coordinates and the fact that the entire error circle is not surveyed. A homogeneous set of HST photometric measurements for all of the counterparts identified thus far is presented, and their optical properties are compared with those of field low-mass X-ray binaries. In addition, new and archival spectra and imaging data are analyzed to intercompare the UV/optical spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of GC LMXBs. A set of simple model SEDs is introduced and compared with the observations to infer accretion rates, disk diameters, and other properties of these systems. This work strengthens previous inferences that many if not most of the globular cluster LMXBs are ultra-compact systems with orbital periods less than 1 hr.
- Astronomy