Volume 473, Number 2, October II 2007
|Page(s)||603 - 614|
|Published online||06 August 2007|
The empirical metallicity dependence of the mass-loss rate of O- and early B-type stars*
Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Astrophysics Group, Lennard-Jones Laboratories, Keele University, Staffordshire, ST55BG, UK
3 Universitäts-Sternwarte München, Scheinerstr. 1, 81679 München, Germany
4 UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, EH9 3HJ, UK
5 Astrophysics Research Centre, School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK
6 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Hicks Building, Hounsfield Rd, Shefffield, S3 7RH, UK
7 Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, 38200 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
8 Departamento de Astrofísica, Universidad de La Laguna, Avda. Astrofísico Francisco Sánchez, s/n, 38071 La Laguna, Spain
9 Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, Princetonplein 5, 3584 CC Utrecht, The Netherlands
10 The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Apartado de Correos 321, 38700 Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain
11 Instituto de Estructura de la Materia, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC, Serrano 121, 28006 Madrid, Spain
12 Grantecan S.A., 38200 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Accepted: 27 July 2007
We present a comprehensive study of the observational dependence of the mass-loss rate in stationary stellar winds of hot massive stars on the metal content of their atmospheres. The metal content of stars in the Magellanic Clouds is discussed, and a critical assessment is given of state-of-the-art mass-loss determinations of OB stars in these two satellite systems and the Milky-Way. Assuming a power-law dependence of mass loss on metal content, , and adopting a theoretical relation between the terminal flow velocity and metal content, (Leitherer et al. 1992, ApJ, 401, 596), we find m = 0.83 ± 0.16 for non-clumped outflows from an analysis of the wind momentum luminosity relation (WLR) for stars more luminous than 105.2 . Within the errors, this result is in agreement with the prediction m = 0.69 ± 0.10 by Vink et al. (2001, A&A, 369, 574). Absolute empirical values for the mass loss, based on Hα and ultraviolet (UV) wind lines, are found to be a factor of two higher than predictions in this high luminosity regime. If this difference is attributed to inhomogeneities in the wind, and this clumping does not impact the predictions, this would imply that luminous O and early-B stars have clumping factors in their Hα and UV line forming regions of about a factor of four. For lower luminosity stars, the winds are so weak that their strengths can generally no longer be derived from optical spectral lines (essentially Hα) and one must currently rely on the analysis of UV lines. We confirm that in this low-luminosity domain the observed Galactic WLR is found to be much steeper than expected from theory (although the specific sample is rather small), leading to a discrepancy between UV mass-loss rates and the predictions by a factor 100 at luminosities of L ~ 104.75 , the origin of which is unknown. We emphasize that even if the current mass-loss rates of hot luminous stars would turn out to be overestimated as a result of wind clumping, but the degree of clumping would be rather independent of metallicity, the scalings derived in this study are expected to remain correct.
Key words: stars: early-type / Magellanic Clouds / stars: winds, outflows / stars: evolution / stars: mass-loss
© ESO, 2007
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