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 V. Gvaramadze, Sternberg Astronomical Institute
Title: Spectral Confirmation of New Galactic LBV and WN Stars Associated With Mid-IR Nebulae
Abstract: Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) stars represent an extremely rare class and short-lived phase in the lives of very luminous massive stars with high mass loss rates. Extragalactic LBVs are responsible for producing false supernovae (SN), the SN Impostors, and have been directly linked with the progenitors of actual SN, indicating the LBV phase can be a final endpoint for massive star evolution. Yet only a few confirmed LBVs have been identified in the Galaxy. Their stellar evolution is poorly constrained by observations, and the physical reason for their unstable nature, both in terms of moderate spectral and photometric variability of a few magnitudes and the giant eruptions \it a la \eta Car that rival SN explosions, remains a mystery. Newly discovered mid-IR shells act as signposts, pointing to the central massive stars (LBV and Wolf-Rayet [WR] stars) that produced them. We have undertaken a spectroscopic survey of possible progenitor stars within these shells and are discovering that many are LBVs and WN-type WR transitional stars. We propose to extend this IR spectral survey to the south to search for new progenitor stars associated with dozens of newly identified shells. This survey should result in a substantial increase of new WRs and candidate LBVs for continued future study. Spectral analysis will yield new insights into the winds and physical properties of these rare and important objects, and lead to a better understanding of the physics driving giant eruptions.
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