Chandra and XMM-Newton are revolutionizing our understanding of compact binaries in external galaxies, allowing us to study sources in detail in Local Group Galaxies and study populations in more distant systems. In M31 the X-ray luminosity function depends on the local stellar population in the sense that areas with active star formation have more high luminosity sources, and a higher overall source density (Kong. Di Stefano. Garcia, & Greiner 2003). This result is also true in galaxies outside the Local Group; starburst galaxies have flatter X-ray luminosity functions than do spiral galaxies which are in turn flatter than elliptical galaxies. These observational results suggest that the high end of the luminosity function in star forming regions is dominated by short-lived high mass X-ray binaries.
In Chandra Cycle 2 we started a Large Project to survey a sample of 11 nearby (< 10Mpc) face-on spiral galaxies. We find that sources can be approximately classified on the basis of their X-ray color into low mass X-ray binaries, high mass X-ray binaries and supersoft sources. There is an especially interesting class of source that has X-ray colors softer (“redder”) than a typical low mass X-ray binary source, but not so extreme as supersoft sources. Most of these are probably X-ray bright supernova remnants, but some may be a new type of black hole accretor. Finally, when we construct a luminosity function of sources selecting only sources with low mass X-ray binary colors (removing soft sources) we find that there is a dip or break probably associated with the Eddington luminosity for a neutron star.