First Detection of Mid-Infrared Variability from an Ultraluminous X-Ray Source Holmberg II X-1 [HEAP]

We present mid-infrared (IR) light curves of the Ultraluminous X-ray Source (ULX) Holmberg II X-1 from observations taken between 2014 January 13 and 2017 January 5 with the \textit{Spitzer Space Telescope} at 3.6 and 4.5 $\mu$m in the \textit{Spitzer} Infrared Intensive Transients Survey (SPIRITS). The mid-IR light curves, which reveal the first detection of mid-IR variability from a ULX, is determined to arise primarily from dust emission rather than from a jet or an accretion disk outflow. We derived the evolution of the dust temperature ($T_\mathrm{d}\sim600 – 800$ K), IR luminosity ($L_\mathrm{IR}\sim3\times10^4$ $\mathrm{L}_\odot$), mass ($M_\mathrm{d}\sim1-3\times10^{-6}$ $\mathrm{M}_\odot$), and equilibrium temperature radius ($R_\mathrm{eq}\sim10-20$ AU). A comparison of X-1 with a sample spectroscopically identified massive stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud on a mid-IR color-magnitude diagram suggests that the mass donor in X-1 is a supergiant (sg) B[e]-star. The sgB[e]-interpretation is consistent with the derived dust properties and the presence of the [Fe II] ($\lambda=1.644$ $\mu$m) emission line revealed from previous near-IR studies of X-1. We attribute the mid-IR variability of X-1 to increased heating of dust located in a circumbinary torus. It is unclear what physical processes are responsible for the increased dust heating; however, it does not appear to be associated with the X-ray flux from the ULX given the constant X-ray luminosities provided by serendipitous, near-contemporaneous X-ray observations around the first mid-IR variability event in 2014. Our results highlight the importance of mid-IR observations of luminous X-ray sources traditionally studied at X-ray and radio wavelengths.

Read this paper on arXiv…

R. Lau, M. Heida, M. Kasliwal, et. al.
Tue, 14 Mar 17

Comments: 9 page, 4 figures, 1 table, Accepted to ApJ Letters