Orbital Decay in M82 X-2

Matteo Bachetti, Marianne Heida, Thomas Maccarone, Daniela Huppenkothen, Gian Luca Israel, Didier Barret, Murray Brightman, McKinley Brumback, Hannah P. Earnshaw, Karl Forster, Felix Fürst, Brian W. Grefenstette, Fiona A. Harrison, Amruta D. Jaodand, Kristin K. Madsen, Matthew Middleton, Sean N. Pike, Maura Pilia, Juri Poutanen, Daniel SternJohn A. Tomsick, Dominic J. Walton, Natalie Webb, Jörn Wilms

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M82 X-2 is the first pulsating ultraluminous X-ray source discovered. The luminosity of these extreme pulsars, if isotropic, implies an extreme mass transfer rate. An alternative is to assume a much lower mass transfer rate, but with an apparent luminosity boosted by geometrical beaming. Only an independent measurement of the mass transfer rate can help discriminate between these two scenarios. In this paper, we follow the orbit of the neutron star for 7 yr, measure the decay of the orbit ( Ṗorb/Porb≈−8·10−6yr−1 ), and argue that this orbital decay is driven by extreme mass transfer of more than 150 times the mass transfer limit set by the Eddington luminosity. If this is true, the mass available to the accretor is more than enough to justify its luminosity, with no need for beaming. This also strongly favors models where the accretor is a highly magnetized neutron star.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022


  • 330
  • High-Energy Phenomena and Fundamental Physics


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