Magnetic massive stars as progenitors of 'heavy' stellar-mass black holes

V. Petit, Z. Keszthelyi, R. MacInnis, D. H. Cohen, R. H.D. Townsend, G. A. Wade, S. L. Thomas, S. P. Owocki, J. Puls, A. ud-Doula

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The groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves produced by the inspiralling and coalescence of the black hole (BH) binary GW150914 confirms the existence of 'heavy' stellar-mass BHs with masses > 25 M. Initial characterization of the system by Abbott et al. supposes that the formation of BHs with such large masses from the evolution of single massive stars is only feasible if the wind mass-loss rates of the progenitors were greatly reduced relative to the mass-loss rates of massive stars in the Galaxy, concluding that heavy BHs must form in low-metallicity (Z ≲ 0.25-0.5Z) environments. However, strong surface magnetic fields also provide a powerful mechanism for modifying mass-loss and rotation of massive stars, independent of environmental metallicity. In this paper, we explore the hypothesis that some heavy BHs, with masses > 2 5M such as those inferred to compose GW150914, could be the natural end-point of evolution of magnetic massive stars in a solar-metallicity environment. Using the MESA code, we developed a new grid of single, non-rotating, solar-metallicity evolutionary models for initial zero-age main sequence masses from 40 to 80M that include, for the first time, the quenching of the mass-loss due to a realistic dipolar surface magnetic field. The new models predict terminal-age main-sequence (TAMS) masses that are significantly greater than those from equivalent non-magnetic models, reducing the total mass lost by a strongly magnetized 80M star during its main-sequence evolution by 20M. This corresponds approximately to the mass-loss reduction expected from an environment with metallicity Z = 1/30 Z.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1052-1060
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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