Volume 647, March 2021
|Number of page(s)||12|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||26 February 2021|
Physics and evolution of the most massive stars in 30 Doradus
Mass loss, envelope inflation, and a variable upper stellar mass limit⋆
Argelander-Institut für Astronomie der Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany
Accepted: 8 January 2021
Context. The identification of stellar-mass black-hole mergers with up to 80 M⊙ as powerful sources of gravitational wave radiation led to increased interest in the physics of the most massive stars. The largest sample of possible progenitors of such objects, very massive stars (VMS) with masses up to 300 M⊙, have been identified in the 30 Dor star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). In this young starburst analogue, VMS were found to dominate stellar feedback. Despite their importance, the physics and evolution of VMS is highly uncertain, mainly due to their proximity to the Eddington limit.
Aims. In this work, we investigate the two most important effects that are thought to occur near the Eddington limit: enhanced mass loss through optically thick winds and the formation of radially inflated stellar envelopes.
Methods. We compute evolutionary models for VMS at LMC metallicity and perform a population synthesis of the young stellar population in 30 Dor. We adjust the input physics of our models to match the empirical properties of the single-star population in 30 Dor as derived in the framework of the VLT-Flames Tarantula Survey.
Results. Enhanced mass loss and envelope inflation near the Eddington limit have a dominant effect on the evolution of the most massive stars. While the observed mass-loss properties and the associated surface He-enrichment are well described by our new models, the observed O-star mass-loss rates are found to cover a much larger range than theoretically predicted, with particularly low mass-loss rates for the youngest objects. Also, the (rotational) surface enrichment in the O-star regime appears to not be well understood. The positions of the most massive stars in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (HRD) are affected by mass loss and envelope inflation. For instance, the majority of luminous B supergiants in 30 Dor, and the lack thereof at the highest luminosities, can be explained through the combination of envelope inflation and mass loss. Finally, we find that the upper limit for the inferred initial stellar masses in the greater 30 Dor region is significantly lower than in its central cluster, R 136, implying a variable upper limit for the masses of stars.
Conclusions. The implementation of mass-loss and envelope physics in stellar evolution models turns out to be essential for the modelling of the observable properties of young stellar populations. While the properties of the most massive stars (≳100 M⊙) are well described by our new models, the slightly less massive O stars investigated in this work show a much more diverse behaviour than previously thought, which has potential implications for rotational mixing and angular momentum transport. While the present models are a big step forward in the understanding of stellar evolution in the upper HRD, more work is needed to understand the mechanisms that regulate the mass-loss rates of OB stars and the physics of fast-rotating stars.
Key words: stars: evolution / stars: early-type / stars: winds, outflows / stars: massive / stars: mass-loss / stars: Wolf-Rayet
Model data are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (22.214.171.124) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/cat/J/A+A/647/A13
© ESO 2021
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