PI: Guy Stringfellow, University of Colorado, Guy.Stringfellow@colorado.edu
Address: Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, 389 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0389, USA
CoI: Vasilii Gvaramadze, Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Russia
Title: The Search for New Luminous Blue Variable Stars: Near-Infrared Spectroscopy of Stars With 24 micron Shells
Abstract: Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) stars represent an extremely rare class of very luminous and massive stars. Only about a dozen confirmed Galactic LBV stars are known to date, which precludes us from determining a solid evolutionary connection between LBV and other intermediate (e.g. Ofpe/WN9, WNL) phases in the life of very massive stars. The known LBV stars each have their own unique properties, so new discoveries add insight into the properties and evolutionary status of LBVs and massive stars; even one new discovery of objects of this type could provide break-through results in the understanding of the intermediate stages of massive star evolution. We have culled a prime sample of possible LBV candidates from the \it Spitzer 24 (micron) archival data. All have circumstellar nebulae, rings, and shells (typical of LBVs and related stars) surrounding reddened central stars. Spectroscopic followup of about two dozen optically visible central stars associated with the shells from this sample showed that they are either candidate LBVs, late WN-type Wolf-Rayet stars or blue supergiants. We propose infrared spectroscopic observations of the central stars for a large fraction (23 stars) of our northern sample to determine their nature and discover additional LBV candidates. These stars have no plausible optical counterparts, so infrared spectra are needed. This program requires two nights of Hale time using TripleSpec.
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