A VLT/FLAMES survey for massive binaries in Westerlund 1

Clark, J. S.; Ritchie, B. W. and Negueruela, I. (2020). A VLT/FLAMES survey for massive binaries in Westerlund 1. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 635, article no. A187.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201935903

URL: http://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201935903


Context. The formation, properties, and evolution of massive stars remain subject to considerable theoretical and observational uncertainty. This impacts on fields as diverse as galactic feedback, the production of cosmic rays, and the nature of the progenitors of both electromagnetic and gravitational wave transients.
Aims.The young massive clusters many such stars reside within provide a unique laboratory for addressing these issues. In this work we provide a comprehensive stellar census of Westerlund 1 in order to to underpin such efforts.
Methods. We employed optical spectroscopy of a large sample of early-type stars to determine cluster membership for photometrically-identified candidates, characterise their spectral type, and identify new candidate spectroscopic binaries.
Results. Sixty nine new members of Westerlund 1 are identified via I-band spectroscopy. Together with previous observations, they illustrate a smooth and continuous morphological sequence from late-O giant through to OB supergiant. Subsequently, the progression bifurcates, with one branch yielding mid-B to late-F hypergiants, and cool supergiants, and the other massive blue stragglers prior to a diverse population of H-depleted WRs. We identify a substantial population of O-type stars with very broad Paschen series lines, a morphology that is directly comparable to known binaries in the cluster. In a few cases additional low-resolution R-band spectroscopy is available, revealing double-lined He I profiles and confirming binarity for these objects; suggesting a correspondingly high binary fraction amongst relatively unevolved cluster members.
Conclusions. Our current census remains incomplete, but indicates that Westerlund 1 contains at least 166 stars with initial masses estimated to lie between ∼25 M⊙ and ∼50 M⊙, with more massive stars already lost to supernova. Our data is consistent with the cluster being co-eval, although binary interaction is clearly required to yield the observed stellar population, which is characterised by a uniquely rich cohort of hypergiants ranging from spectral type O to F, with both mass-stripped primaries and rejuvenated secondaries or merger products present. Future observations of Wd1 and similar stellar aggregates hold out the prospect of characterising both single- and binary- evolutionary channels for massive stars and determining their relative contributions. This in turn will permit the physical properties of such objects at the point of core-collapse to be predicted, which is of direct relevance for understanding the formation of relativistic remnants such as the magnetars associated with Wd1 and other young massive clusters.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions