Journal Article

The extended interacting wind structure of Eta Carinae*

T. R. Gull, K. E. Nielsen, M. F. Corcoran, T. I. Madura, S. P. Owocki, C. M. P. Russell, D. J. Hillier, K. Hamaguchi, G. V. Kober, K. Weis, O. Stahl and A. T. Okazaki

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 396, issue 3, pages 1308-1328
Published in print July 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The extended interacting wind structure of Eta Carinae*

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The highly eccentric binary system, η Car, provides clues to the transition of massive stars from hydrogen–burning via the CNO cycle to a helium–burning evolutionary state. The fast–moving wind of η Car B creates a cavity in η Car A's slower, but more massive, stellar wind, providing an in situ probe. The Hubble Space Telescope/Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (HST/STIS), with its high spatial and spectral resolutions, is well matched to follow temporal spatial and velocity variations of multiple wind features. We use observations obtained across 1998–2004 to produce a rudimentary three–dimensional model of the wind interaction in the η Car system. Broad (±500 km s−1) [Fe ii] emission line structures extend 0.7 arcsec (∼1600 au) from the stellar core. In contrast, [Fe iii], [Ar iii], [Ne iii] and [S iii] lines extend only 0.3 arcsec (700 au) from NE to SW and are blue shifted from −500 to +200 km s−1. All observed spectral features vary with the 5.54–year orbital period. The highly ionized, forbidden emission disappears during the low state, associated with periastron passage. The high–ionization emission originates in the outer wind interaction region that is directly excited by the far–ultraviolet radiation from η Car B. The HST/STIS spectra reveal a time–varying, distorted paraboloidal structure, caused by the interaction of the massive stellar winds. The model and observations are consistent with the orbital plane aligned with the skirt of the Homunculus. However, the axis of the distorted paraboloid, relative to the major axis of the binary orbit, is shifted in a prograde rotation along the plane, which projected on the sky is from NE to NW.

Keywords: binaries: spectroscopic; stars: individual: Eta Carinae; stars: winds, outflows

Journal Article.  14727 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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