An ALMA 3 mm continuum census of Westerlund 1

D. M. Fenech, J. S. Clark, R. K. Prinja, S. Dougherty, F. Najarro, I. Negueruela, A. Richards, B. W. Ritchie, H. Andrews

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    Massive stars play an important role in both cluster and galactic evolution and the rate at which they lose mass is a key driver of both their own evolution and their interaction with the environment up to and including their terminal SNe explosions. Young massive clusters provide an ideal opportunity to study a co-eval population of massive stars, where both their individual properties and the interaction with their environment can be studied in detail. We aim to study the constituent stars of the Galactic cluster Westerlund 1 in order to determine mass-loss rates for the diverse post-main sequence population of massive stars. To accomplish this we made 3mm continuum observations with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array. We detected emission from 50 stars in Westerlund 1, comprising all 21 Wolf-Rayets within the field of view, plus eight cool and 21 OB super-/hypergiants. Emission nebulae were associated with a number of the cool hypergiants while, unexpectedly, a number of hot stars also appear spatially resolved. We were able to measure the mass-loss rates for a unique population of massive post-main sequence stars at every stage of evolution, confirming a significant increase as stars transitioned from OB supergiant to WR states via LBV and/or cool hypergiant phases. Fortuitously, the range of spectral types exhibited by the OB supergiants provides a critical test of radiatively-driven wind theory and in particular the reality of the bi-stability jump. The extreme mass-loss rate inferred for the interacting binary Wd1-9 in comparison to other cluster members confirmed the key role binarity plays in massive stellar evolution. The presence of compact nebulae around a number of OB and WR stars is unexpected; by analogy to the cool super-/hypergiants we attribute this to confinement and sculpting of the stellar wind via interaction with the intra-cluster medium/wind. Given the morphologies of core collapse SNe depend on the nature of the pre-explosion circumstellar environment, if this hypothesis is correct then the properties of the explosion depend not just on the progenitor, but also the environment in which it is located.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberA137
    JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
    Early online date3 Oct 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Open clusters and associations: individual: Westerlund 1
    • Stars: evolution
    • Submillimeter: stars


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