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  • Cited by 150
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

16 - Formation and evolution of compact stellar X-ray sources


Introduction and brief historical review

In this chapter we present an overview of the formation and evolution of compact stellar X-ray sources. For earlier reviews on the subject we refer to Bhattacharya & van den Heuvel (1991), van den Heuvel (1994) and Verbunt & van den Heuvel (1995). The observations and populations of high-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs) and low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) were covered earlier in Chapter 1 by Psaltis.

In our Galaxy there are about 100 bright X-ray sources with fluxes well above 10−10 erg cm−2 s−1 in the energy range 1–10 keV (above the Earth's atmosphere). The distribution of these sources shows a clear concentration towards the Galactic center and also towards the Galactic plane, indicating that the majority do indeed belong to our Galaxy. Furthermore, a dozen strong sources are found in Galactic globular clusters (Section 8.2) and in the Magellanic Clouds. Shortly after the discovery of the first source (Sco X-1, Giacconi et al. 1962) Zel'Dovitch and Guseinov (1966), Novikov and Zel'Dovitch (1966) and Shklovskii (1967) suggested that the strong Galactic X-ray sources are accreting neutron stars or black holes in binary systems. (The process of mass accretion onto a supermassive black hole had already been suggested as the energy source for quasars and active galactic nuclei by Salpeter (1964), Zel'Dovitch (1964) and Zel'Dovitch and Novikov (1964).)

The X-ray fluxes measured correspond to typical source luminosities of 1034 – 1038 erg s−1 (which is more than 25 000 times the total energy output of our Sun).

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