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Title: Apples and Oranges: Comparing Black Holes in X-Ray Binaries and Gravitational-wave Sources
Abstract The component black holes (BHs) observed in gravitational-wave (GW) binary black hole (BBH) events tend to be more massive and slower spinning than those observed in black hole X-ray binaries (BH-XRBs). Without modeling their evolutionary histories, we investigate whether these apparent tensions in the BH populations can be explained by GW observational selection effects alone. We find that this is indeed the case for the discrepancy between BH masses in BBHs and the observed high-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs), when we account for statistical uncertainty from the small sample size of just three HMXBs. On the other hand, the BHs in observed low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) are significantly lighter than the astrophysical BBH population, but this may just be due to a correlation between component masses in a binary system. Given their light stellar companions, we expect light BHs in LMXBs. The observed spins in HMXBs and LMXBs, however, are in tension with the inferred BBH spin distribution at the >99.9% level. We discuss possible scenarios behind the significantly larger spins in observed BH-XRBs. One possibility is that a small subpopulation (conservatively <30%) of BBHs have rapidly spinning primary components, indicating that they may have followed a similar evolutionary pathway to the observed HMXBs. In LMXBs, it has been suggested that BHs can spin up by accretion. If LMXB natal spins follow the BBH spin distribution, we find LMXBs must gain an average dimensionless spin of 0.47 − 0.11 + 0.10 , but if their natal spins follow the observed HMXB spins, the average spin-up must be <0.03.  more » « less
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The Astrophysical Journal Letters
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Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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