The starburst galaxy NGC 4449 is the ideal place to study the connection between high mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs) and star clusters. We not only show that HMXBs form in clusters, but show how we can gain more insight into these extreme objects by studying their parent clusters. Our comprehensive study is published in the Astrophysical Journal. You can read the full paper here, or read the abstract below.
We present 23 candidate X-ray binaries with luminosities down to 1.8×10^36 erg/s, in the nearby starburst galaxy NGC 4449, from observations totaling 105 ksec taken with the ACIS-S instrument on the Chandra Space Telescope. We determine count rates, luminosities, and colors for each source, and perform spectral fits for sources with sufficient counts. We also compile a new catalog of 129 compact star clusters in NGC 4449 from high-resolution, multi-band optical images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, doubling the number of clusters known in this galaxy. The UBVI,Ha luminosities of each cluster are compared with predictions from stellar evolution models to estimate their ages and masses. We find strong evidence for a population of very young massive, black-hole binaries, which comprise nearly 50% of the detected X-ray binaries in NGC 4449. Approximately a third of these remain within their parent star clusters, which formed t < 6-8 Myr ago, while others have likely been ejected from their parent clusters. We also find evidence for a population of somewhat older X-ray binaries, including both supergiant and Be-binaries, which appear to be associated with somewhat older t ~ 100-400 Myr star clusters, and one X-ray binary in an ancient (t ~ 10 Gyr) globular cluster. Our results suggest that detailed information on star clusters can significantly improve constraints on X-ray binary populations in star-forming galaxies.