P Cygni

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P Cygni
P Cygni Profile.png

P Cygni's characteristic and eponymous line profile for H-α
Observation data
Epoch J2000      Equinox J2000
Constellation Cygnus
Right ascension 20h 17m 47.2018s[1]
Declination +38° 01′ 58.549″
Apparent magnitude (V) 4.82[2]
3 to 6[3]
Spectral type B1Ia+[4]
U−B color index -0.58[4]
B−V color index +0.42[4]
Variable type Luminous blue variable[3]
Radial velocity (Rv) -8.9 km/s
Proper motion (μ) RA: -3.53 mas/yr
Dec.: -6.88 mas/yr
Parallax (π) 0.32 ± 0.16[1] mas
Distance approx. 10,000 ly
(approx. 3,000 pc)
Absolute magnitude (MV) −7.9[5]
Mass 30[6] M
Radius 76[7] R
Luminosity 610,000[7] L
Surface gravity (log g) 1.2[8] cgs
Temperature 18,700[7] K
Metallicity 0.29[7] He/H
Rotational velocity (v sin i) 75 km/s
Age ? years
Other designations
NOVA Cyg 1600, * 34 Cyg, Glazar Cyg 11, JP11 3218, TD1 26474, GSC 03151-03442, LS II +37 50, TYC 3151-3442-1, AG+37° 1953, HBHA 3703-88, 2MASS J20174719+3801585, ALS 11097, HD 193237, MCW 849, BD+37° 3871, Hen 3-1871, PLX 4837, CEL 5017, PPM 84645, V* P Cyg, Hilt 916, RAFGL 5493S, GC 28218, HIP 100044, ROT 2959, GCRV 12673, HR7763, SAO 69773, AAVSO 2014+37A.
Database references

P Cygni (34 Cyg) is a variable star in the constellation Cygnus. The designation "P" was originally assigned by Johann Bayer in Uranometria as a nova.

It is a hypergiant luminous blue variable (LBV) star of spectral type B1Ia+ that is one of the most luminous stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The star is located about 5000 to 6000 light years from the Earth. Despite this vast distance, it is visible to the naked eye in suitable dark sky locations. It was unknown until the end of the 16th century, when it suddenly brightened to 3rd magnitude. It was first observed on 18 August (Gregorian) 1600 by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, a Dutch astronomer, mathematician and globe-maker. After six years the star faded slowly, dropping below naked-eye visibility in 1626. It brightened again in 1655, but had faded by 1662. Another outburst took place in 1665; this was followed by numerous fluctuations. Since 1715, however, P Cygni has been a fifth magnitude star, with only minor fluctuations in brightness. Today it has a magnitude of 4.8, irregularly variable by a few hundredths of a magnitude on a scale of days.[6] The visual brightness is increasing by about 0.15 magnitude per century, attributed to a slow decrease in temperature at constant luminosity.[9]

P Cygni has been called a "permanent nova" because of spectral similarities and the obvious outflow of material, and was once treated with novae as an eruptive variable; however its behaviour is no longer thought to involve the same processes associated with true novae.[10]

Luminous blue variable stars like P Cygni are very rare and short lived, and only form in regions of galaxies where intense star formation is happening. LBV stars are so massive and energetic (typically 50 times the mass of our sun and tens of thousands of times more luminous) that they exhaust their nuclear fuel very quickly. After shining for only a few million years (compared to several billion years for our sun) they erupt in a supernova. The recent supernova SN 2006gy [11] was likely the end of an LBV star similar to P Cygni but located in a distant galaxy.

P Cygni gives its name to a type of spectroscopic feature called a P Cygni profile, where the presence of both absorption and emission in the spectral line profile indicate the existence of a gaseous envelope expanding away from the star. The emission lobe is redshifted and the absorption lobe is blueshifted with respect to the spectral line's rest wavelength. These profiles are useful in the study of stellar winds in many types of stars. They are often cited as an indicator of a luminous blue variable star.[12]

It has been proposed P Cygni's eruptions could be caused by mass transfer to a hypothetical companion star of spectral type B that would have a mass between 3 and 6 times the mass of our Sun and would orbit P Cygni each 7 years in a high eccentricity orbit. Infall of matter into the secondary star would produce the release of gravitational energy, part of which would cause an increase of the luminosity of the system.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "P Cygni". SIMBAD Astronomical Database. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  2. ^ Ducati, J. R. (2002). "VizieR Online Data Catalog: Catalogue of Stellar Photometry in Johnson's 11-color system". CDS/ADC Collection of Electronic Catalogues 2237: 0. Bibcode:2002yCat.2237....0D. 
  3. ^ a b "GCVS Query=P Cyg". General Catalogue of Variable Stars @ Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow, Russia. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  4. ^ a b c Smith, L. J.; Crowther, P. A.; Prinja, R. K. (1994). "A study of the luminous blue variable candidate He 3-519 and its surrounding nebula". Astronomy and Astrophysics (ISSN 0004-6361) 281: 833. Bibcode:1994A&A...281..833S. 
  5. ^ Van Genderen, A. M. (2001). "S Doradus variables in the Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds". Astronomy and Astrophysics 366 (2): 508–531. Bibcode:2001A&A...366..508V. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20000022.  edit
  6. ^ a b Balan, A.; Tycner, C.; Zavala, R. T.; Benson, J. A.; Hutter, D. J.; Templeton, M. (2010). "The Spatially Resolved Hα-emitting Wind Structure of P Cygni". The Astronomical Journal 139 (6): 2269. arXiv:1004.0376. Bibcode:2010AJ....139.2269B. doi:10.1088/0004-6256/139/6/2269.  edit
  7. ^ a b c d Najarro, F. (2001). "Spectroscopy of P Cygni". P Cygni 2000: 400 Years of Progress 233: 133. Bibcode:2001ASPC..233..133N. 
  8. ^ Najarro, F.; Hillier, D. J.; Stahl, O. (1997). "A spectroscopic investigation of P Cygni. I. H and HeI lines". Astronomy and Astrophysics 326: 1117. Bibcode:1997A&A...326.1117N. 
  9. ^ Lamers, H. J. G. L. M.; De Groot, M. J. H. (1992). "Observed evolutionary changes in the visual magnitude of the luminous blue variable P Cygni". Astronomy and Astrophysics (ISSN 0004-6361) 257: 153. Bibcode:1992A&A...257..153L. 
  10. ^ Szkody, P. (1977). "Infrared photometry of dwarf novae and possibly related objects". The Astrophysical Journal 217: 140. doi:10.1086/155563.  edit
  11. ^ Smith, N.; Li, W.; Foley, R. J.; Wheeler, J. C.; Pooley, D.; Chornock, R.; Filippenko, A. V.; Silverman, J. M.; Quimby, R.; Bloom, J. S.; Hansen, C. (2007). "SN 2006gy: Discovery of the Most Luminous Supernova Ever Recorded, Powered by the Death of an Extremely Massive Star like η Carinae". The Astrophysical Journal 666 (2): 1116. doi:10.1086/519949.  edit
  12. ^ Robinson, K. (2007). "The P Cygni Profile and Friends". Spectroscopy: The Key to the Stars. Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series. p. 119. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-68288-4_10. ISBN 978-0-387-36786-6.  edit
  13. ^ Kashi, A. (2010). "An indication for the binarity of P Cygni from its 17th century eruption". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16582.x.  edit

Coordinates: Sky map 20h 17m 47.2s, +38° 01′ 59″

External links[edit]