Institute of Astronomy

Stellar Fireworks: A journey through the spirally dust plumes of Wolf-Rayet binaries

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Yinuo Han26 October 2022Institute of Astronomy Seminars


Wolf-Rayet stars are the final phase of evolution of the most massive stars before becoming a supernova. Their extremely high luminosities drive fast, dense winds that are sometimes rich in carbon. Despite the harsh circumstellar environment, Wolf-Rayet stars in binaries can sometimes precipitate the right conditions to form large amounts of dust in spectacular shapes. We recently analysed a series of images of the dust produced by WR140 over 17 years. These images enabled us to model the geometry of the dust shell and track its motion. Surprisingly, our analysis revealed the dust to be accelerating, which likely constitutes a first direct witness of radiation pressure accelerating matter in the circumstellar environment. I will also discuss our recent observations of the system with JWST, which produced spectacular images with interesting features well-explained by our model. These observations reveal interesting physics that help us understand the dust formation mechanism in colliding-wind binaries.


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