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Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacic, 113:512513, 2001 April


2001. The Astronomical Society of the Pacic. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.
Conference Highlights
h Carinae and Other Mysterious Stars: Hidden Opportunities for Emission Spectroscopy
1
Two years ago, a workshop entitled h Carinae at the Mil-
lennium (1999, ASP Conf. Ser. 179, ed. J. A. Morse, R. M.
Humphreys, & A. Damineli [San Francisco: ASP]) was held
to evaluate the data obtained up through the 19971998
spectroscopic event. Augusto Damineli (1996, ApJ, 460,
L49) had previously noticed that the equivalent width of the
He i 10830 A

line faded as the near-IR peaked and that the


historical photometric minima tted well to a 5.52 year period.
Based upon his predictions and a common desire to understand
the peculiar star h Car, many astronomers used ground- and
spaced-based tools to follow the spectroscopic event that did
indeed occur in late 1997 and early 1998. As observers and
theorists reviewed the observations and theory, we came to
realize how little was understood of h Car. To this day, there
is no conclusive proof whether h Car is a single- or multiple-
star system. Out of that workshop came the desire to better
characterize h Car by following it through at least one 5.52
year cycle, and beyond, to separate the cyclic variations from
long-term changes. Equally important was the need to improve
models of the central source and the need to better couple
modern atomic physics with observations. We collectively re-
alized that the variability of h Car and its ejecta provides a
laboratory for studying atomic processes as the conditions
change on relatively short timescales in a predictable manner.
One outcome of the 1998 h Car workshop was the need for
systematic observations throughout the electromagnetic spec-
trum and the desire to meet within 2 years to share new ob-
servations, new laboratory results, and improved physical un-
derstanding not only of h Car, but also of other mysterious
stars. This past August we assembled on the island of Hven,
Sweden, to do exactly that.
We were hosted by the University of Lund Departments of
Physics and of Astronomy. The location is signicant as Hven
is the island where Tycho Brahe built his observatory over 400
years ago. Only the foundations for his astrometric instruments
remain. As we gazed at these carefully preserved structures,
we wondered what will remain of our modern telescopes such
as the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory,
Arecibo Observatory, the Keck Telescopes, and the Very Large
Telescope 400 years from now. Back in 1600, a student of
Brahe, W. J. Blaeu, noticed the variability of P Cygni, the
prototype of luminous blue variables (LBVs). Eventually stud-
ies of other variable stars led to the recognition of LBVs, in-
1
Conference was held in Hven, Sweden, in 2000 August. Proceedings will
be edited by Theodore R. Gull, Sveneric Johansson, and Kris Davidson and
published in the ASP Conference Series.
cluding h Car. Thus there is a loose connection of h Car to the
careful studies, and tutelage, of Tycho Brahe in his day.
Two words can characterize the conference: discovery and
synthesis. Discovery came in the form of results from obser-
vations with new instruments having greatly increased capa-
bilities. Synthesis came by observers, theorists, and atomic
spectroscopists sharing in the observations, current theories,
and laboratory measurements.
In the past 2 years, many new and exciting data sets have
been obtained of h Car and other mysterious stars. As a prime
example, h Car has been systematically observed with the Hub-
ble Space Telescope (HST) and the Space Telescope Imaging
Spectrograph (STIS) since 1998 January. With 0.1 angular res-
olution and a resolving power of 5000, a .1 aperture

52 #0
was used to record three spatially resolved spectra from 1640
to 10100 A

each at approximately 1 year intervals but at the


identical position angle. The central source, Weigelt blobs
B and D (separated by 0.1 and 0.2 from the central source),
and a slice of the Homunculus were recorded. The angular
resolution is sufcient to separate the central pointlike source
from the extended nebulosity and to dissect the nebular struc-
tures. A miniature emission nebulosity, called the Internal, or
Matryoshka, Nebula was found deep within the well-known
reection nebula that we know as the Homunculus. A peculiar
emission lament was discovered that is bright in emission
lines of Fe i, Sr ii, Ni ii, Co ii, and many other heavy elements
but is not visible in continuum or hydrogen emission lines. As
the rst peculiar result was the identication of two [Sr ii] lines
in the 6700 A

region, we call this the Sr lament. Several


theorists are attempting to explain these peculiarities by detailed
photoionization modeling. The uxes of the numerous heavy-
element emission lines in the several emission structures are
not yet modeled. Well over a dozen possible excitation chan-
nels, driven by Lya, are noted for Fe ii, many arising from the
chance coincidence of the hydrogen Lya energy with Fe ii
transition energies. Several lines coming from similar levels
have strange line ratios in the Weigelt blobs, yet have proper
line ratios in laboratory spectra and in the spectrum of RR Tel.
A number of possible mechanisms were noted including the
chance coincidences in wavelength of transitions that would
pull energy from an element with an optically thick transition
to another element with an optically thin intermediate
transition.
The mysterious stars were so named because features in
their spectra are still not fully understood. Even lines known
for years in the spectra of O-type stars are still unidentied.
h CAR AND OTHER MYSTERIOUS STARS 513
2001 PASP, 113:512513
Identied lines are in emission in some stars and in absorption
in other very similar stars. The spectra of cool hypergiants have
emission lines (e.g., 7000.8 A

in vacuum) that are yet to be


identied. Young stars, such as T Tauri stars, have complex
processes that involve the interaction between dusty disks and
rotating magnetic stars, even some binary stars.
Another breakthrough has been spectroscopy combined with
increased angular resolution, both by HST and STIS and by
the emerging ground-based active optical systems. Spectros-
copy by STIS of a Orionis is permitting testing of models of
chromospheric nonradial oscillations. Surprisingly, the central
source of h Car is resolved by STIS in more than a few Fe ii
lines. Preliminary ground-based active optical observations of
P Cygni in the near-IR indicates that the [Fe ii] atmosphere
may be resolved. As we move into the ground-based large-
telescope era, structures of many more stellar atmospheres will
become resolvable. This likely will lead to better insight into
the structure of these mysterious stars.
Extended structure around h Car and other mysterious stars
can now be studied in much more detail, leading to more de-
tailed tests of stellar ejecta models, especially with bipolar lobes
and large central disks. Scaling up successful bipolar planetary
nebular models does not seem to properly describe the more
massive systems like the Homunculus. Detailed stellar wind
models, atmosphere models, and atomic physics models will
need to evolve in the near future to better explain the current
observations. And the multiple strings seen in wholesale be-
yond the Homunculus defy current explanation! How can a
star eject bullets that move at velocities beyond a few thousand
kilometers per second and still stay together? Is the more pon-
derously moving Sr lament, noted above, related to these fast-
moving bullets? What powers the Herbig-Haro jets in the young
stellar systems?
By the end of the workshop, the conclusion was that indeed
much progress has occurred in matching observational spec-
troscopy with laboratory measurements. However, much more
is yet to be done in modeling the detailed spectrum using line
pumping and improved excited-state lifetimes. We do not un-
derstand how the bipolar ejection occurs, nor how strings form.
Based upon the progress in the past 2 years, a workshop near
Seattle, Washington, is planned for summer of 2002 with em-
phasis on modeling of the ejecta of h Carinae and on planning
observations for the next spectroscopic minimum, which will
be in the summer of 2003. Make your reservations now!
Theodore R. Gull
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Laboratory for Astronomy and Solar Physics, Code 681, Greenbelt, MD 20771