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Astron. Astrophys. 355, 1073-1079 (2000)

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A limit for the mass transfer rate in soft X-ray transients

E. Meyer-Hofmeister and F. Meyer

Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, Karl Schwarzschildstrasse 1, 85740 Garching, Germany

Received 26 November 1999 / Accepted 25 January 2000


Many black hole X-ray transients are in a low state for several decades until an outburst occurs. We interpret this outburst behaviour as a marginal occurrence of a dwarf nova type disk instability in the cool outer accretion disk. We compute the disk evolution including evaporation of matter from the cool thin disk. This evaporation process causes the transition to a hot coronal flow. The efficiency depends on the black hole mass.

The new results are the dependence of the outburst recurrence time on the mass transfer rate from the companion star and the fraction of the matter which is accumulated in the disk for the outburst. We determine a lower limit of the mass transfer rate, below which no disk instability can be triggered. We find that for rates slightly lower than those in the known black hole X-ray transients the disk would be stationary. We argue that many such optically faint black hole X-ray binaries with stationary cool accretion disks exist.

Key words: accretion, accretion disks – stars: binaries: close – black hole physics – X-rays: stars

Send offprint requests to: emm@mpa-garching.mpg.de

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: March 21, 2000