VLTI-AMBER velocity-resolved aperture-synthesis imaging of η Carinae with a spectral resolution of 12 000: Studies of the primary star wind and innermost wind-wind collision zone

G. Weigelt, K. H. Hofmann, D. Schertl, N. Clementel, M. F. Corcoran, A. Damineli, W. J. De Wit, R. Grellmann, J. Groh, S. Guieu, T. Gull, M. Heininger, D. J. Hillier, C. A. Hummel, S. Kraus, T. Madura, A. Mehner, A. Mérand, F. Millour, A. F.J. MoffatK. Ohnaka, F. Patru, R. G. Petrov, S. Rengaswamy, N. D. Richardson, T. Rivinius, M. Schöller, M. Teodoro, M. Wittkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Context. The mass loss from massive stars is not understood well. η Carinae is a unique object for studying the massive stellar wind during the luminous blue variable phase. It is also an eccentric binary with a period of 5.54 yr. The nature of both stars is uncertain, although we know from X-ray studies that there is a wind-wind collision whose properties change with orbital phase. Aims. We want to investigate the structure and kinematics of η Car's primary star wind and wind-wind collision zone with a high spatial resolution of ∼6 mas (∼14 au) and high spectral resolution of R = 12 000. Methods. Observations of η Car were carried out with the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) and the AMBER instrument between approximately five and seven months before the August 2014 periastron passage. Velocity-resolved aperture-synthesis images were reconstructed from the spectrally dispersed interferograms. Interferometric studies can provide information on the binary orbit, the primary wind, and the wind collision. Results. We present velocity-resolved aperture-synthesis images reconstructed in more than 100 different spectral channels distributed across the Brγ 2.166 μm emission line. The intensity distribution of the images strongly depends on wavelength. At wavelengths corresponding to radial velocities of approximately -140 to - 376 km s-1 measured relative to line center, the intensity distribution has a fan-shaped structure. At the velocity of - 277 km s-1, the position angle of the symmetry axis of the fan is ∼126°. The fan-shaped structure extends approximately 8.0 mas (∼18.8 au) to the southeast and 5.8 mas (∼13.6 au) to the northwest, measured along the symmetry axis at the 16% intensity contour. The shape of the intensity distributions suggests that the obtained images are the first direct images of the innermost wind-wind collision zone. Therefore, the observations provide velocity-dependent image structures that can be used to test three-dimensional hydrodynamical, radiative transfer models of the massive interacting winds of η Car.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA106
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaries: general
  • Stars: individual: ηCarinae
  • Stars: mass-loss
  • Stars: massive
  • Stars: winds, outflows
  • Techniques: interferometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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