The expected final evolution of massive close binaries (CB) in case B is reviewed. Primary stars with masses ≳ 12–15 M
⊙ are, after loosing most of their envelope by mass exchange, expected to explode as supernovae, leaving behind a neutron star or a black hole.
Conservative close binary evolution (i.e. without a major loss of mass and angular momentum from the system during the first stage of mass transfer) is expected to occur if the initial mass ratio q
0 = M
0 is ≳ 0.3. In this case the primary star will be the less massive component when it explodes, and the system is almost never disrupted by the explosion. The explosion is followed by a long-lasting quiet stage (106–107 yr) when the system consists of a massive main-sequence star and an inactive compact companion. After the secondary has left the main-sequence and becomes a blue supergiant with a strong stellar wind, the system becomes a massive X-ray binary for a short while (2–5 × 104 yr).
The numbers of Wolf-Rayet binaries and massive X-ray binaries observed within 3 kpc of the Sun are in reasonable agreement with the numbers expected on the basis of conservative CB evolution, which implies that several thousands of massive main-sequence stars with a quiet compact companion should exist in the Galaxy. About a dozen of these systems must be present among the stars visible to the naked eye. During the second stage of mass exchange, large loss of mass and angular momentum from the system is expected, leading to a rapid shrinking of the orbit. The supernova explosion of the secondary will in most cases disrupt the system. If it remains bound, the final system will consist of two compact stars and may resemble the binary pulsar PSR 1913 + 16.
In systems with q
0 ≲ 0.2–0.3 large mass loss from the system is expected during the first stage of mass exchange. The exploding primary will then be more massive than its unevolved companion and the first supernova explosion disrupts the system in most cases. In the rare cases that it remains bound, the system will have a large runaway velocity and, after a very long (108–109 yr) inactive stage evolves into a low-mass X-ray binary, possibly resembling Her X-1.