The low-mass X-ray binary-globular cluster connection in NGC 4472

Arunav Kundu, Thomas J. Maccarone, Stephen E. Zepf

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We have analyzed the low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB) candidates in a Chandra observation of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 4472. In a region observed by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), approximately 40% of the bright (L x ≳ 1037 ergs s-1) LMXBs are associated with optically identified globular clusters (GC). This is significantly higher than the fraction of bright LMXBs in Galactic GCs and confirms that GCs are the dominant sites of LMXB formation in early-type galaxies. The ≈4% of NGC 4472 GCs hosting bright LMXBs, on the other hand, is remarkably similar to the fraction of GCs with LMXBs in every other galaxy. Although statistical tests suggest that the luminosity of a cluster is an important driver of LMXB formation in GCs, this appears largely to be a consequence of the greater number of stars in bright clusters. The metallicity of GCs is a strong determinant of LMXB specific frequency, with metal-rich clusters about 3 times more likely to host LMXBs than metal-poor ones. There are weaker dependences on the size of a GC and its distance from the center of the galaxy. The X-ray luminosity does not depend significantly on the properties of the host GC. Furthermore, the spatial distribution and X-ray luminosity function of LMXBs within and outside GCs are indistinguishable. The X-ray luminosity function of both GC-LMXBs and non-GC-LMXBs reveal a break at ≈3 × 1038 ergs s-1, strongly suggesting that the brightest LMXBs are black hole accretors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L5-L9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 II
StatePublished - Jul 20 2002


  • Galaxies: general
  • Galaxies: individual (NGC 4472)
  • Galaxies: star clusters globular clusters: general
  • X-rays: binaries
  • X-rays: galaxies


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