Context. Recent studies show that more than 70% of massive stars do not evolve as effectively single stars, but as members of interacting binary systems. The evolution of these stars is thus strongly altered compared to similar but isolated objects.
Aims: We investigate the occurrence of parsec-scale mid-infrared nebulae around early-type stars. If they exist over a wide range of stellar properties, one possible overarching explanation is non-conservative mass transfer in binary interactions, or stellar mergers.
Methods: For ∼3850 stars (all OBA stars in the Bright Star Catalogue (BSC), Be stars, BeXRBs, and Be+sdO systems), we visually inspect WISE 22 μm images. Based on nebular shape and relative position, we distinguish five categories: offset bow shocks structurally aligned with the stellar space velocity, unaligned offset bow shocks, and centered, unresolved, and not classified nebulae.
Results: In the BSC, we find that 28%, 13%, and 0.4% of all O, B, and A stars, respectively, possess associated infrared (IR) nebulae. Additionally, 34/234 Be stars, 4/72 BeXRBs, and 3/17 Be+sdO systems are associated with IR nebulae.
Conclusions: Aligned or unaligned bow shocks result from high relative velocities between star and interstellar medium (ISM) that are dominated by the star or the ISM, respectively. About 13% of the centered nebulae could be bow shocks seen head- or tail-on. For the rest, the data disfavor explanations as remains of parental disks, supernova remnants of a previous companion, and dust production in stellar winds. The existence of centered nebulae also at high Galactic latitudes strongly limits the global risk of coincidental alignments with condensations in the ISM. Mass loss during binary evolution seems a viable mechanism for the formation of at least some of these nebulae. In total, about 29% of the IR nebulae (2% of all OBA stars in the BSC) may find their explanation in the context of binary evolution.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- October 2018
- stars: early-type;
- stars: emission-line;
- stars: rotation;
- binaries: general;
- circumstellar matter;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 21 pages, 5 tables, 6 figures, accepted for publication in A&