Pinwheels in the Quintuplet Cluster

Peter Tuthill, John Monnier, Angelle Tanner, Donald Figer, Andrea Ghez, William Danchi

School of Physics, University of Sydney; Univ. Michigan Astronomy Dept.; JPL/Caltech; COS/Ctr for Imaging S, RIT; Dept of Astronomy, UCLA; NASA Goddard

The five enigmatic "Cocoon stars" after which the Quintuplet cluster was christened have puzzled astronomers since their discovery. Their extraordinary cool, featureless thermal spectra have been attributed to various stellar types from young to highly evolved, while their absolute luminosities places them among the supergiants. We present diffraction-limited images from the Keck I telescope which resolves this debate with the discovery of rotating spiral plumes characteristic of colliding-wind binary "pinwheel" nebulae. Such elegant spiral structures, found around high-luminosity Wolf-Rayet stars, have recently been implicated in the behavior of supernovae lightcurves in the radio and optical.

Reference: astro-ph/0608427
Status: Manuscript has been accepted