Physical Properties of Wolf-Rayet Stars

Paul A Crowther

University of Sheffield

The striking broad emission line spectroscopic appearance of Wolf-Rayet stars have long defied analysis due to the extreme physical conditions of their line and continuum forming regions. Recently, model atmosphere studies have advanced sufficiently to enable the determination of stellar temperatures, luminosities, elemental abundances, ionizing fluxes and wind properties. The observed distribution of nitrogen (WN) and carbon (WC) sequence WR stars in the Milky Way and nearby star forming galaxies is discussed, from which lower limits to progenitor masses are 25, 40, 75 Msun for hydrogen-depleted (He-burning) WN, WC, and H-rich (H-burning) WN stars, respectively. WR stars in massive binaries permit studies of wind-wind interactions and dust formation in WC systems, plus current mass determinations, revealing typically 10-25 Msun, although extending up to 80Msun for H-rich WN stars. Theoretical and observational evidence in favour of a metallicity dependence of WR winds is presented, with implications for evolutionary models, ionizing fluxes, and the role of WR stars within the context of core-collapse supernovae and long-duration gamma ray bursts.

Reference: Review Paper, to appear in Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Volume 45 (2007).
Status: Manuscript has been submitted

Weblink: astro-ph/0610356