A Be-type star with a black hole companion

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Stellar-mass black holes have all been discovered through X-ray emission, which arises from the accretion of gas from their binary companions. Currently known black holes are fed by material stripped from a low-mass star or by the wind of a massive companion. Binary evolution models also predict the existence of black holes accreting from the equatorial envelope of rapidly spinning Be-type stars. However, among the ~80 Be X-ray binaries known in the Galaxy (~150 including the Magellanic Clouds), only pulsating neutron stars have been found as companions, which is known as the missing Be/black-hole X-ray binary problem. In this talk I present the first dynamical evidence for a 3.8-6.9 Msun black hole orbiting the Be star and gamma-ray candidate MWC 656 (=AGL J2241+4454). This discovery has been allowed by the detection of a HeII emission line from an accretion disc encircling the black hole. We find the black hole is X-ray quiescent with Lx<1.6 × 10−7 times the Eddington luminosity. This implies that Be binaries with black-hole companions are difficult to detect by conventional X-ray surveys and may be more abundant than predicted by population synthesis models.