Journal Article

Discovery of an optical counterpart to the hyperluminous X-ray source in ESO 243–49

Roberto Soria, George K. T. Hau, Alister W. Graham, Albert K. H. Kong, N. Paul M. Kuin, I-Hui Li, Ji-Feng Liu and Kinwah Wu

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 405, issue 2, pages 870-876
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Discovery of an optical counterpart to the hyperluminous X-ray source in ESO 243–49

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The existence of black holes of masses – has important implications for the formation and evolution of star clusters and supermassive black holes. One of the strongest candidates to date is the hyperluminous X-ray source (HLX1), possibly located in the S0–a galaxy ESO 243–49, but the lack of an identifiable optical counterpart had hampered its interpretation. Using the Magellan telescope, we have discovered an unresolved optical source with mag and mag within HLX1’s positional error circle. This implies an average X-ray/optical flux ratio . Taking the same distance as ESO 243–49, we obtain an intrinsic brightness mag, comparable to that of a massive globular cluster. Alternatively, the optical source is consistent with a main-sequence M star in the Galactic halo (for example an M4.4 star at kpc). We also examined the properties of ESO 243–49 by combining Swift/Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) observations with stellar population modelling. We found that the overall emission is dominated by a -Gyr-old stellar population, but the UV emission at Å is mostly due to ongoing star formation at a rate of yr−1. The UV emission is more intense (at least a enhancement above the mean) north-east of the nucleus, in the same quadrant as HLX1. With the combined optical and X-ray measurements, we put constraints on the nature of HLX1. We rule out a foreground star and a background AGN. Two alternative scenarios are still viable. HLX1 could be an accreting intermediate mass black hole in a star cluster, which may itself be the stripped nucleus of a dwarf galaxy that passed through ESO 243–49, an event which might have caused the current episode of star formation. Or, it could be a neutron star in the Galactic halo, accreting from an M4–M5 donor star.

Keywords: black hole physics; galaxies: individual: ESO 243–49; ultraviolet: galaxies; X-rays: binaries

Journal Article.  4766 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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