Letter

Nature 449, 872-875 (18 October 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06218; Received 27 June 2007; Accepted 29 August 2007

A 15.65-solar-mass black hole in an eclipsing binary in the nearby spiral galaxy M 33

Jerome A. Orosz1, Jeffrey E. McClintock2, Ramesh Narayan2, Charles D. Bailyn3, Joel D. Hartman2, Lucas Macri4, Jiefeng Liu2, Wolfgang Pietsch5, Ronald A. Remillard6, Avi Shporer7 & Tsevi Mazeh7

  1. Department of Astronomy, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California 92182-1221, USA
  2. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  3. Department of Astronomy, Yale University, PO Box 208101, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8101, USA
  4. National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85719, USA
  5. Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstras zlige, D-85741 Garching, Germany
  6. MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, 37-287, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA
  7. Wise Observatory, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

Correspondence to: Jerome A. Orosz1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.A.O. (Email: orosz@sciences.sdsu.edu).

Stellar-mass black holes are found in X-ray-emitting binary systems, where their mass can be determined from the dynamics of their companion stars1, 2, 3. Models of stellar evolution have difficulty producing black holes in close binaries with masses more than ten times that of the Sun (>10Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com; ref. 4), which is consistent with the fact that the most massive stellar black holes known so far2, 3 all have masses within one standard deviation of 10Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com. Here we report a mass of (15.65 plusminus 1.45)Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com for the black hole in the recently discovered system M 33 X-7, which is located in the nearby galaxy Messier 33 (M 33) and is the only known black hole that is in an eclipsing binary5. To produce such a massive black hole, the progenitor star must have retained much of its outer envelope until after helium fusion in the core was completed4. On the other hand, in order for the black hole to be in its present 3.45-day orbit about its (70.0 plusminus 6.9)Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com companion, there must have been a 'common envelope' phase of evolution in which a significant amount of mass was lost from the system6. We find that the common envelope phase could not have occurred in M 33 X-7 unless the amount of mass lost from the progenitor during its evolution was an order of magnitude less than what is usually assumed in evolutionary models of massive stars7, 8, 9.

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