Spectroscopic monitoring of the luminous blue variable Westerlund1-243 from 2002 to 2009

Ritchie, B.; Clark, J. S.; Negueruela,, I. and Najarro, F. (2009). Spectroscopic monitoring of the luminous blue variable Westerlund1-243 from 2002 to 2009. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 507(3) pp. 1597–1611.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200912986


Context. The massive post-main sequence star W243 in the galactic starburst cluster Westerlund 1 has undergone a spectral transformation from a B2Ia supergiant devoid of emission features in 1981 to an A-type supergiant with a rich emission-line spectrum by 2002/03.

Aims. We examine the continued evolution of W243 from 2002 to 2009 to understand its evolutionary state, current physical properties and the origin of its peculiar emission line spectrum.

Methods. We used VLT/UVES and VLT/FLAMES to obtain high resolution, high signal-to-noise spectra on six epochs in 2003/04 (UVES) and ten epochs in 2008/09 (FLAMES). These spectra are used alongside other lower-resolution VLT/FLAMES and NTT/EMMI spectra to follow the evolution of W243 from 2002 to 2009. Non-LTE models are used to determine the physical properties of W243.

Results. W243 displays a complex, time-varying spectrum with emission lines of hydrogen, helium and Lyman- pumped metals, forbidden lines of nitrogen and iron, and a large number of absorption lines from neutral and singly-ionized metals. Many lines are complex emission/absorption blends, with significant spectral evolution occurring on timescales of just a few days. The LBV has a temperature of ~8500 K (spectral type A3Ia+), and displays signs of photospheric pulsations and weak episodic mass loss. Nitrogen is highly overabundant, with carbon and oxygen depleted, indicative of surface CNO-processed material and considerable previous mass-loss, although current time-averaged mass-loss rates are low. The emission-line spectrum forms at large radii, when material lost by the LBV in a previous mass-loss event is ionized by an unseen hot companion. Monitoring of the near-infrared spectrum suggests that the star has not changed significantly since it finished evolving to the cool state, close to the Humphreys-Davidson limit, in early 2003.

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