skip to main content

Title: A unicorn in monoceros: the 3 M⊙ dark companion to the bright, nearby red giant V723 Mon is a non-interacting, mass-gap black hole candidate
ABSTRACT We report the discovery of the closest known black hole candidate as a binary companion to V723 Mon. V723 Mon is a nearby ($d\sim 460\, \rm pc$), bright (V ≃ 8.3 mag), evolved (Teff, giant ≃ 4440 K, and Lgiant ≃ 173 L⊙) red giant in a high mass function, f(M) = 1.72 ± 0.01 M⊙, nearly circular binary (P = 59.9 d, e ≃ 0). V723 Mon is a known variable star, previously classified as an eclipsing binary, but its All-Sky Automated Survey, Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite light curves are those of a nearly edge-on ellipsoidal variable. Detailed models of the light curves constrained by the period, radial velocities, and stellar temperature give an inclination of $87.0^{\circ ^{+1.7^\circ }}_{-1.4^\circ }$, a mass ratio of q ≃ 0.33 ± 0.02, a companion mass of Mcomp = 3.04 ± 0.06 M⊙, a stellar radius of Rgiant = 24.9 ± 0.7 R⊙, and a giant mass of Mgiant = 1.00 ± 0.07 M⊙. We identify a likely non-stellar, diffuse veiling component with contributions in the B and V band of ${\sim }63{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ and ${\sim }24{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$, respectively. The SED and the absence of continuum eclipses imply that the companion mass must be dominated by a compact object. We do observe eclipses of the Balmer lines when the dark companion passes behind the giant, but their velocity spreads are low compared to observed accretion discs. The X-ray luminosity of the system is $L_{\rm X}\simeq 7.6\times 10^{29}~\rm ergs~s^{-1}$, corresponding to L/Ledd ∼ 10−9. The simplest explanation for the massive companion is a single compact object, most likely a black hole in the ‘mass gap’.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1814440 1908570 1909022
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; « less
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range / eLocation ID:
2577 to 2602
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    As part of an All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) search for sources with large flux decrements, we discovered a transient where the quiescent, stellar source ASASSN-V J192114.84+624950.8 rapidly decreased in flux by $\sim 55{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ (∼0.9 mag) in the g band. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite light curve revealed that the source is a highly eccentric, eclipsing binary. Fits to the light curve using phoebe find the binary orbit to have e = 0.79, Porb = 18.462 d, and i = 88.6°, and the ratios of the stellar radii and temperatures to be R2/R1 = 0.71 and Te,2/Te,1 = 0.82. Both stars are chromospherically active, allowing us to determine their rotational periods of P1 = 1.52 d and P2 = 1.79 d, respectively. A Large Binocular Telescope/Multi-Object Double Spectrograph spectrum shows that the primary is a late-G- or early-K-type dwarf. Fits to the spectral energy distribution show that the luminosities and temperatures of the two stars are L1 = 0.48 L⊙, $T_1= 5050\, \mathrm{K}$, L2 = 0.12 L⊙, and $T_{2} = 4190\, \mathrm{K}$. We conclude that ASASSN-V J192114.84+624950.8 consists of two chromospherically active, rotational variable stars in a highly elliptical eclipsing orbit.

    more » « less

    We analyse two binary systems containing giant stars, V723 Mon (‘the Unicorn’) and 2M04123153+6738486 (‘the Giraffe’). Both giants orbit more massive but less luminous companions, previously proposed to be mass-gap black holes. Spectral disentangling reveals luminous companions with star-like spectra in both systems. Joint modelling of the spectra, light curves, and spectral energy distributions robustly constrains the masses, temperatures, and radii of both components: the primaries are luminous, cool giants ($T_{\rm eff,\, giant} = 3800$ and $4000\, \rm K$, $R_{\rm giant}= 22.5$ and $25\, {\rm R}_{\odot }$) with exceptionally low masses ($M_{\rm giant} \approx 0.4\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$) that likely fill their Roche lobes. The secondaries are only slightly warmer subgiants ($T_{\rm eff,\, 2} = 5800$ and $5150\, \rm K$, $R_2= 8.3$ and $9\, {\rm R}_{\odot }$) and thus are consistent with observed UV limits that would rule out main-sequence stars with similar masses ($M_2 \approx 2.8$ and ${\approx}1.8\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$). In the Unicorn, rapid rotation blurs the spectral lines of the subgiant, making it challenging to detect even at wavelengths where it dominates the total light. Both giants have surface abundances indicative of CNO processing and subsequent envelope stripping. The properties of both systems can be reproduced by binary evolution models in which a $1{-}2\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ primary is stripped by a companion as it ascends the giant branch. The fact that the companions are also evolved implies either that the initial mass ratio was very near unity, or that the companions are temporarily inflated due to rapid accretion. The Unicorn and Giraffe offer a window into into a rarely observed phase of binary evolution preceding the formation of wide-orbit helium white dwarfs, and eventually, compact binaries containing two helium white dwarfs.

    more » « less
  3. ABSTRACT Using ASAS-SN data, we find that the bright ($V\sim 13.5$ mag) variable star MACHO 80.7443.1718 (ASASSN-V J052624.38–684705.6) is the most extreme heartbeat star yet discovered. This massive binary, consisting of at least one early B-type star, has an orbital period of $P_{\rm ASAS-SN}=32.83627\pm 0.00846\, {\rm d},$ and is located towards the LH58 OB complex in the LMC. Both the ASAS-SN and TESS light curves show extreme brightness variations of ${\sim }40{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ at periastron and variations of $ \sim 10{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ due to tidally excited oscillations outside periastron. We fit an analytical model of the variability caused by the tidal distortions at pericentre to find orbital parameters of $\omega =-61.4^\circ$, $i=44.8^\circ$, and $e=0.566$. We also present a frequency analysis to identify the pulsation frequencies corresponding to the tidally excited oscillations. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    We present 18 yr of OGLE photometry together with spectra obtained over 12 yr revealing that the early Oe star AzV 493 shows strong photometric (ΔI< 1.2 mag) and spectroscopic variability with a dominant, 14.6 yr pattern and ∼40 day oscillations. We estimate the stellar parametersTeff= 42,000 K,logL/L=5.83±0.15,M/M= 50 ± 9, andvsini= 370 ± 40 km s−1. Direct spectroscopic evidence shows episodes of both gas ejection and infall. There is no X-ray detection, and it is likely a runaway star. The star AzV 493 may have an unseen companion on a highly eccentric (e> 0.93) orbit. We propose that close interaction at periastron excites ejection of the decretion disk, whose variable emission-line spectrum suggests separate inner and outer components, with an optically thick outer component obscuring both the stellar photosphere and the emission-line spectrum of the inner disk at early phases in the photometric cycle. It is plausible that AzV 493’s mass and rotation have been enhanced by binary interaction followed by the core-collapse supernova explosion of the companion, which now could be either a black hole or a neutron star. This system in the Small Magellanic Cloud can potentially shed light on OBe decretion disk formation and evolution, massive binary evolution, and compact binary progenitors.

    more » « less

    We examine massive black hole (MBH) mergers and their associated gravitational wave signals from the large-volume cosmological simulation Astrid . Astrid includes galaxy formation and black hole models recently updated with an MBH seed population between 3 × 104h−1M⊙ and 3 × 105h−1M⊙ and a sub-grid dynamical friction (DF) model to follow the MBH dynamics down to 1.5 ckpc h−1. We calculate the initial eccentricities of MBH orbits directly from the simulation at kpc-scales, and find orbital eccentricities above 0.7 for most MBH pairs before the numerical merger. After approximating unresolved evolution on scales below ${\sim 200\, \text{pc}}$, we find that the in-simulation DF on large scales accounts for more than half of the total orbital decay time ($\sim 500\, \text{Myr}$) due to DF. The binary hardening time is an order of magnitude longer than the DF time, especially for the seed-mass binaries (MBH < 2Mseed). As a result, only $\lesssim 20{{\rm per \,cent}}$ of seed MBH pairs merge at z > 3 after considering both unresolved DF evolution and binary hardening. These z > 3 seed-mass mergers are hosted in a biased population of galaxies with the highest stellar masses of $\gt 10^9\, {\rm M}_\odot$. With the higher initial eccentricity prediction from Astrid , we estimate an expected merger rate of 0.3−0.7 per year from the z > 3 MBH population. This is a factor of ∼7 higher than the prediction using the circular orbit assumption. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna events are expected at a similar rate, and comprise $\gtrsim 60\,{\rm{per\,cent}}$ seed-seed mergers, $\sim 30\,{\rm{per\,cent}}$ involving only one seed-mass MBH, and $\sim 10\,{\rm{per\,cent}}$ mergers of non-seed MBHs.

    more » « less