The variability of the BRITE-est Wolf-Rayet binary, $\gamma^2$ Velorum I. Photometric and spectroscopic evidence for colliding winds

Noel Richardson et al.

University of Toledo

We report on the first multi-color precision light curve of the bright Wolf-Rayet binary $\gamma^2$ Velorum, obtained over six months with the nanosatellites in the BRITE- Constellation fleet. In parallel, we obtained 488 high-resolution optical spectra of the system. In this first report on the datasets, we revise the spectroscopic orbit and report on the bulk properties of the colliding winds. We find a dependence of both the light curve and excess emission properties that scales with the inverse of the binary separation. When analyzing the spectroscopic properties in combination with the photometry, we find that the phase dependence is caused only by excess emission in the lines, and not from a changing continuum. We also detect a narrow, high-velocity absorption component from the He I $\lambda$5876 transition, which appears twice in the orbit. We calculate smoothed-particle hydrodynamical simulations of the colliding winds and can accurately associate the absorption from He I to the leading and trailing arms of the wind shock cone passing tangentially through our line of sight. The simulations also explain the general strength and kinematics of the emission excess observed in wind lines such as C III $\lambda$5696 of the system. These results represent the first in a series of investigations into the winds and properties of $\gamma^2$ Velorum through multi-technique and multi-wavelength observational campaigns.

Reference: MNRAS, in press
Status: Manuscript has been accepted