The [O III] Veil: Astropause of Eta Carinae's Wind?

Nathan Smith, Jon A. Morse, and John Bally

U. Colorado and ASU

We present narrowband images of eta Carinae in the light of [O III] 5007 obtained with HST/WFPC2, as well as a ground-based image in the same emission line with a larger field of view. These images show a thin veil of [O III] emission around eta Car and its ejecta, confirming the existence of an oxygen-bearing ``cocoon'' inferred from spectra. This [O III] veil may be the remnant of the pre-outburst wind of eta Car, and its outer edge probably marks the interface where eta Car's ejecta meet the stellar wind of the nearby O4 V((f)) star HD303308 or other ambient material -- i.e., it marks the ``astropause'' in eta Car's wind. This veil is part of a more extensive [O III] shell that appears to be shaped and ionized by HD303308. A pair of HST images with a 10 yr baseline shows no proper motion, limiting the expansion speed away from eta Car to 12pm13 km/s, or an expansion age of a few times 10^4 yr. Thus, this is probably the decelerated pre-outburst LBV wind of eta Car. The [O III] morphology is very different from that seen in [N II], which traces young knots of CNO-processed material; this represents a dramatic shift in the chemical makeup of material recently ejected by eta Car. This change in the chemical abundances may have resulted from the sudden removal of the star's outer envelope during eta Car's 19th century outburst or an earlier but similar event.

Reference: AJ OCtober 2005
Status: Manuscript has been accepted