Mass estimates in short-period compact binaries

Kolb, U.; King, A.R. and Baraffe, I. (2001). Mass estimates in short-period compact binaries. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 321(3) pp. 544–548.



Using stellar models we investigate the relation between mass and the spectral type of the secondary star in low-mass short-period compact binaries such as cataclysmic variables and soft X-ray transients. Allowing for different mass transfer rates and different system ages prior to mass transfer we find that the secondaries should populate a band in the spectral type versus mass plane. The mass Mms of a zero-age main-sequence star with the same spectral type as the donor is effectively an upper limit to the donor mass. The lower mass limit for a given spectral type depends on the mixing length parameter. If this is large, there is no lower limit if the spectral type is later than K6. The width of the band decreases from 0.4 M at K6 to less than 0.2 M at K0. If the mixing length parameter is small, there is no lower mass limit if the spectral type is later than M2, and the width of the band decreases from 0.2 M at M2 to less than 0.1 M for types earlier than K0. We also point out an error in the method suggested by Beekman et al. to estimate the primary mass in a soft X-ray transient.

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