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, 525 (2), L97-L100

Pinwheel Nebula Around WR 98a

Pinwheel Nebula Around WR 98a

JD Monnier et al. Astrophys J.


We present the first near-infrared images of the dusty Wolf-Rayet star WR 98a. Aperture-masking interferometry has been utilized to recover images at the diffraction limit of the Keck I telescope, less, similar50 mas at 2.2 µm. Multiepoch observations spanning about 1 yr have resolved the dust shell into a "pinwheel" nebula, the second example of a new class of dust shell first discovered around WR 104 by Tuthill, Monnier, & Danchi. Interpreting the collimated dust outflow in terms of an interacting winds model, the binary orbital parameters and apparent wind speed are derived: a period of 565+/-50 days, a viewing angle of 35&j0;+/-6 degrees from the pole, and a wind speed of 99+/-23 mas yr-1. This period is consistent with a possible approximately 588 day periodicity in the infrared light curve, linking the photometric variation to the binary orbit. Important implications for binary stellar evolution are discussed by identifying WR 104 and WR 98a as members of a class of massive, short-period binaries whose orbits were circularized during a previous red supergiant phase. The current component separation in each system is similar to the diameter of a red supergiant, which indicates that the supergiant phase was likely terminated by Roche lobe overflow, leading to the present Wolf-Rayet stage.

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