The face-on disc of MAXI J1836-194
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This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2014 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press, on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
We present Very Large Telescope optical spectra of the black hole candidate X-ray binary MAXI J1836−194 at the onset of its 2011 outburst. Although the spectrum was taken at the beginning of the outburst and contains a significant contribution from the optically thin synchrotron emission that originates in the radio jet, we find that the accretion disc was already large and bright. Single-peaked, narrow Hα and He II λ4686 lines imply the most face-on accretion disc observed in a black hole low-mass X-ray binary to date, with an inclination angle between 4° and 15°, assuming a black hole mass of between 5 and 12 M, for distances of between 4 and 10 kpc. We use New Technology Telescope observations of the system in quiescence to place strong upper limits on the mass and radius of the donor star and the orbital period. The donor is a main-sequence star with a mass <0.65 M and a radius <0.59 R with an orbital period of <4.9 h. From those values and Roche lobe geometry constraints we find that the compact object must be >1.9 M if the system is located 4 kpc away and >7.0 M at 10 kpc.
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