Volume 543, July 2012
|Number of page(s)||42|
|Published online||04 July 2012|
Nitrogen line spectroscopy in O-stars
1 Universitätssternwarte München, Scheinerstr. 1, 81679 München, Germany
2 Lowell Observatory, 1400 West Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA
3 Centro de Astrobiología, (CSIC-INTA), Ctra. Torrejón a Ajalvir km 4, 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
Received: 3 February 2012
Accepted: 10 May 2012
Context. The classification scheme proposed by Walborn et al. (2002, AJ, 123, 2754), based primarily on the relative strengths of the N ivλ4058 and N iiiλ4640 emission lines, has been used in a variety of studies to spectroscopically classify early O-type stars. Owing to the lack of a solid theoretical basis, this scheme has not yet been universally accepted though.
Aims. We provide first theoretical predictions for the N ivλ4058/N iiiλ4640 emission line ratio in dependence of various parameters, and confront these predictions with results from the analysis of a sample of early-type LMC/SMC O-stars.
Methods. Stellar and wind parameters of our sample stars are determined by line profile fitting of hydrogen, helium and nitrogen lines, exploiting the helium and nitrogen ionization balance. Corresponding synthetic spectra are calculated by means of the NLTE atmosphere/spectrum synthesis code fastwind.
Results. Though there is a monotonic relationship between the N iv/N iii emission line ratio and the effective temperature, all other parameters being equal, theoretical predictions indicate additional dependencies on surface gravity, mass-loss, metallicity, and, particularly, nitrogen abundance. For a given line ratio (i.e., spectral type), more enriched objects should be typically hotter. These basic predictions are confirmed by results from the alternative model atmosphere code cmfgen.
The effective temperatures for the earliest O-stars, inferred from the nitrogen ionization balance, are partly considerably hotter than indicated by previous studies. Consistent with earlier results, effective temperatures increase from supergiants to dwarfs for all spectral types in the LMC. The relation between observed N ivλ4058/N iiiλ4640 emission line ratio and effective temperature, for a given luminosity class, turned out to be quite monotonic for our sample stars, and to be fairly consistent with our model predictions. The scatter within a spectral sub-type is mainly produced by abundance effects.
Conclusions. Our findings suggest that the Walborn et al. (2002, AJ, 123, 2754) classification scheme is able to provide a meaningful relation between spectral type and effective temperature, as long as it is possible to discriminate for the luminosity class. In terms of spectral morphology, this might be difficult to achieve in low-Z environments such as the SMC, owing to rather low wind-strengths. According to our predictions, the major bias of the classification scheme is due to nitrogen content, and the overall spectral type-Teff relation for low-metallicity (e.g., SMC) O-stars might be non-monotonic around O3.5/O4.
Key words: stars: early-type / stars: fundamental parameters / stars: atmospheres / line: formation
Based on (i) observations collected at the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope, under programmes 68.D-0369, 171.D-0237 (FLAMES), and 67.D-0238, 70.D-0164, 074.D-0109 (UVES); (ii) observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained from the Data Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. These observations are associated with programmes 6417, 7739, and 9412; and (iii) observations gathered with the 6.5 m Magellan telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory, Chile.
Appendices A and B are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2012
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