X-ray Binaries in the Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds

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Session 18 -- Invited Talk
Oral presentation, Monday, 12:15-1:05, Zellerbach Auditorium Room

[18.01] X-ray Binaries in the Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds

Anne P. Cowley (ASU)

\noindent For more than two decades astronomers have been aware that the most X-ray luminous stellar sources (L$_x > 10^{35}$ erg s$^{-1}$) are interacting binaries where one component is a neutron star or black hole. While other types of single and multiple stars are known X-ray sources, none compare in X-ray luminosity with the ``classical" X-ray binaries. In these systems X-ray emission results from accretion of material from a non-degenerate companion onto the compact star through several alternate mechanisms including Roche lobe overflow, stellar winds, or periastron effects in non-circular orbits. \vskip 5pt \noindent It has been recognized for many years that X-ray binaries divide into two broad groups, characterized primarily by the mass of the non-degenerate star: 1) massive X-ray binaries (MXRB), in which the optical primary is a bright, early-type star, and ~2) low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXB), where a lower main-sequence or subgiant star is the mass donor. A broad variety of observational characteristics further subdivide these classes. In the Galaxy these two groups appear to be spatially and kinematically associated with the disk and the halo populations, respectively. \vskip 5pt \noindent A few dozen MXRB are known in the Galaxy. A great deal of information about their physical properties has been learned from observational study. Their optical primaries can be investigated by conventional techniques. Furthermore, most MXRB contain X-ray pulsars, allowing accurate determination of their orbital parameters. From these data masses have been determined for the neutron stars, all of which are $\sim$1.4 $M_{\odot}$, within measurement errors. By contrast, the LMXB have been much more difficult to study. Although there are $\sim$150 LMXB in the Galaxy, most are distant and faint, requiring use of large telescopes for their study. Their optical light is almost always dominated by an accretion disk, rather than the mass-losing star, making interpretation of their spectral and photometric properties difficult. Their often uncertain distances further complicate our understanding. Thus, although the galactic LMXB greatly outnumber the MXRB, they are much less well understood. \vskip 5pt \noindent The X-ray binaries in the Magellanic Clouds in many ways make an ideal laboratory because they are all at the same, known distance. However, at the present time only a handful of X-ray binaries are known with certainty in these galaxies -- 7 in the LMC and 1 in the SMC. Only 3 of the LMC sources are low-mass X-ray binaries, and their properties are quite different from ``typical" galactic LMXB. In this review we will outline the general properties of X-ray binaries and summarize what types of information we have learned from their study over a wide range of wavelengths. An overall comparison of the global properties of X-ray binaries in the Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds will be given.

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