The Galactic WC stars. Stellar parameters from spectral analyses indicate a new evolutionary sequence
Context. The life cycles of massive stars from the main sequence to their explosion as supernovae or gamma ray bursts are not yet fully clear, and the empirical results from spectral analyses are partly in conflict with current evolutionary models. The spectral analysis of Wolf-Rayet stars requires the detailed modeling of expanding stellar atmospheres in non-LTE. The Galactic WN stars have been comprehensively analyzed with such models of the latest stage of sophistication, while a similarly comprehensive study of the Galactic WC sample remains undone.
Aims: We aim to establish the stellar parameters and mass-loss rates of the Galactic WC stars. These data provide the empirical basis of studies of (i) the role of WC stars in the evolution of massive stars, (ii) the wind-driving mechanisms, and (iii) the feedback of WC stars as input to models of the chemical and dynamical evolution of galaxies.
Methods: We analyze the nearly complete sample of un-obscured Galactic WC stars, using optical spectra as well as ultraviolet spectra when available. The observations are fitted with theoretical spectra, using the Potsdam Wolf-Rayet (PoWR) model atmosphere code. A large grid of line-blanked models has been established for the range of WC subtypes WC4 - WC8, and smaller grids for the WC9 parameter domain. Both WO stars and WN/WC transit types are also analyzed using special models.
Results: Stellar and atmospheric parameters are derived for more than 50 Galactic WC and two WO stars, covering almost the whole Galactic WC population as far as the stars are single, and un-obscured in the visual. In the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, the WC stars reside between the hydrogen and the helium zero-age main sequences, having luminosities L from 104.9 to 105.6 L☉. The mass-loss rates scale very tightly with L0.8. The two WO stars in our sample turn out to be outstandingly hot (≈200 kK) and do not fit into the WC scheme.
Conclusions: By comparing the empirical WC positions in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram with evolutionary models, and from recent supernova statistics, we conclude that WC stars have evolved from initial masses between 20 solar masses and 45 M☉. In contrast to previous assumptions, it seems that WC stars in general do not descend from the most massive stars. Only the WO stars might stem from progenitors that have been initially more massive than 45 M☉.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- April 2012
- stars: massive;
- stars: mass-loss;
- stars: Wolf-Rayet;
- stars: evolution;
- stars: atmospheres;
- stars: winds;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 19+4 pages, 12 figures, A&