AG Carinae

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AG Carinae
AG Car
AG Car (Hubble Space Telescope image)
Observation data
Epoch J2000      Equinox J2000
Constellation Carina
Right ascension 10h 56m 11.57814s[1]
Declination −60° 27′ 12.8107″[1]
Apparent magnitude (V) 6.96[2] (5.7–9.0)[3]
Spectral type LBV[4]
U−B color index −0.58[2]
B−V color index +0.61[2]
Variable type LBV[5]
Proper motion (μ) RA: −4.808[1] mas/yr
Dec.: +1.955[1] mas/yr
Parallax (π)0.1925 ± 0.0165 mas[1]
Distance17,000 ± 1,000 ly
(5,200 ± 400 pc)
Absolute magnitude (MV)~−8 (at minimum)[4]
Mass55[6] M
Radius50[7]–552[8] R
Luminosity600,000–900,000[9][a] L
Temperature8,000–26,000[7] K
Rotation13±2[10] days
Rotational velocity (v sin i)220±50[10] km/s
Other designations
CD–59°3430, HD 94910, HIP 53461, SAO 251185, WR 31b, AAVSO 1052–69
Database references

AG Carinae (AG Car) is a star in the constellation Carina. It is classified as a luminous blue variable (LBV) and is one of the most luminous stars in the Milky Way. The great distance (20,000 light-years) and intervening dust mean that the star is not usually visible to the naked eye; its apparent brightness varies erratically between magnitude 5.7 and 9.0.


This image showcases the details of the ionised hydrogen and ionised nitrogen emissions from the nebula (seen here in red).[11]

The star is surrounded by a nebula of ejected material at 0.4–1.2 pc from the star. The nebula contains around 15 M, all lost from the star around 10,000 years ago. There is an 8.8-parsec-wide empty cavity in the interstellar medium around the star, presumably cleared by fast winds earlier in the star's life.[4][6]

AG Carinae is apparently in a transitional phase between a massive class O blue supergiant and a Wolf–Rayet star, where it is highly unstable and suffers from erratic pulsations, occasional larger outbursts, and rare massive eruptions. The spectral type varies between WN11 at visual minimum and an early A hypergiant at maximum.[4] At visual minimum the star is about 65 R and 20,000–24,000 K, while at maximum it is over 400 R and 8,000 K. The temperature varies at different minima.[7][12]

One study calculated that the bolometric luminosity of AG Carinae decreases during its S Doradus-type outbursts, unlike most LBVs which remain at approximately constant luminosity. The luminosity drops from around 1.5 million L at visual minimum to around 1 million L at visual maximum, possibly due to the energy required to expand a considerable fraction of the star.[4]

Evolutionary models of the star suggest that it had a low rotation rate for much of its life, but current observations show fairly rapid rotation.[6]

Models of LBV progenitors of type IIb supernovae list AG Carinae as matching the final stellar spectrum prior to core collapse, although the models are for stars with 20 to 25 times the mass of the Sun while AG Carinae is thought to be considerably more massive.[13] The initial mass of the star would have been around 100 M and is now thought to be 55–70 M.[4][6]

Distance controversy[edit]

Parallaxes from data release 1 (DR1) of the Gaia mission suggest a much closer distance to AG Carinae and its neighbour Hen 3-519 than previously accepted, around 2,000 parsecs. Then both stars would be less luminous than LBVs and it is argued that they would be former red supergiants whose unusual characteristics are the result of binary evolution.[14]

The earlier Hipparcos parallax for AG Carinae had a margin of error larger than the parallax itself and so gave little information about its distance.[15] The distance of 6,000 parsecs is based on assumptions about the properties of LBVs, models of interstellar extinction, and kinematical measurements.[4] The Gaia DR1 parallax, derived from the combination of the first year of Gaia measurements with Tycho astrometry, is 0.40±0.22 mas. The Gaia team recommend that a further 0.3 mas systematic error is allowed for (i.e. added to the formal margin of error).[16] A 2017 study argues that the 0.3 mas systematic margin of error can be ignored and that the implied distance to AG Carinae is 2.50±1.41 kpc.[14]

In Gaia Data Release 2, the parallax is 0.1532±0.0291 mas, suggesting a distance around 6,500 pc.[17] A 2019 observation yields a most likely distance of 4,650 pc.[9] Gaia Early Data Release 3 gives a parallax of 0.1925±0.0165 mas, although with a non-trivial level of excess astrometric noise where there was none in Gaia DR2.[1]

Light curve[edit]

AAVSO light curve of luminous blue variable AG Car from 1 Jan 1940 to 23 Nov 2010. Up is brighter and down is fainter.


  1. ^ Smith et al. 2019 stated that assuming the 4.65 kpc distance, the luminosity of AG Car would be 40% lower than the 1–1.5 million L which was based on the 6 kpc distance.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Brown, A. G. A.; et al. (Gaia collaboration) (2021). "Gaia Early Data Release 3: Summary of the contents and survey properties". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 649: A1. arXiv:2012.01533. Bibcode:2021A&A...649A...1G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/202039657. S2CID 227254300. (Erratum: doi:10.1051/0004-6361/202039657e). Gaia EDR3 record for this source at VizieR.
  2. ^ a b c Nicolet, B. (1978). "Photoelectric photometric Catalogue of homogeneous measurements in the UBV System". Astronomy and Astrophysics Supplement Series. 34: 1–49. Bibcode:1978A&AS...34....1N.
  3. ^ Watson, C. L. (2006). "The International Variable Star Index (VSX)". The Society for Astronomical Sciences 25th Annual Symposium on Telescope Science. Held May 23–25. 25: 47. Bibcode:2006SASS...25...47W.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Groh, J. H.; Hillier, D. J.; Damineli, A.; Whitelock, P. A.; Marang, F.; Rossi, C. (2009). "On the Nature of the Prototype Luminous Blue Variable Ag Carinae. I. Fundamental Parameters During Visual Minimum Phases and Changes in the Bolometric Luminosity During the S-Dor Cycle". The Astrophysical Journal. 698 (2): 1698–1720. arXiv:0904.2363. Bibcode:2009ApJ...698.1698G. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/698/2/1698. S2CID 1391092.
  5. ^ Samus, N. N.; Durlevich, O. V.; Kazarovets, R. V. (1997). "The General Catalog of Variable Stars (GCVS)". Baltic Astronomy. 6 (2): 296. Bibcode:1997BaltA...6..296S. doi:10.1515/astro-1997-0229.
  6. ^ a b c d Vamvatira-Nakou, C.; Hutsemekers, D.; Royer, P.; Cox, N. L. J.; Naze, Y.; Rauw, G.; Waelkens, C.; Groenewegen, M. A. T. (2015). "The Herschel view of the nebula around the luminous blue variable star AG Carinae". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 1504: 3204. arXiv:1504.03204. Bibcode:2015A&A...578A.108V. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201425090. S2CID 119160088.
  7. ^ a b c Stahl, O.; Jankovics, I.; Kovács, J.; Wolf, B.; Schmutz, W.; Kaufer, A.; Rivinius, Th.; Szeifert, Th. (2001). "Long-term spectroscopic monitoring of the Luminous Blue Variable AG Carinae". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 375: 54–69. Bibcode:2001A&A...375...54S. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20010824.
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Groh, Jose H.; Stassun, Keivan G.; Drout, Maria R.; Murphy, Jeremiah W.; Aghakhanloo, Mojgan; Smith, Nathan (2019). "On the Gaia DR2 distances for Galactic luminous blue variables". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 488 (2): 1760–1778. arXiv:1805.03298. Bibcode:2019MNRAS.488.1760S. doi:10.1093/mnras/stz1712. S2CID 119267371.
  10. ^ a b Groh, J. H.; Hillier, D. J.; Damineli, A. (July 2011). "On the Nature of the Prototype Luminous Blue Variable AG Carinae. II. Witnessing a Massive Star Evolving Close to the Eddington and Bistability Limits". The Astrophysical Journal. 736 (1): 46. arXiv:1105.0814. Bibcode:2011ApJ...736...46G. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/736/1/46. S2CID 117109500.
  11. ^ "A Closer Look at Hubble's 31st Anniversary Snapshot". Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Groh, J. H.; Damineli, A.; Hillier, D. J. (2008). P. Benaglia (ed.). "LBVs and the nature of the S Dor cycles: The case of AG Carinae". Massive Stars: Fundamental Parameters and Circumstellar Interactions. 33: 132. arXiv:astro-ph/0702612. Bibcode:2008RMxAC..33..132G.
  13. ^ Groh, J. H.; Meynet, G.; Ekström, S. (2013). "Massive star evolution: luminous blue variables as unexpected supernova progenitors". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 550: 4. arXiv:1301.1519. Bibcode:2013A&A...550L...7G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201220741. S2CID 119227339. L7.
  14. ^ a b Smith, N.; Stassun, K. G. (2017). "The Canonical Luminous Blue Variable AG Car and Its Neighbor Hen 3-519 are Much Closer than Previously Assumed". The Astronomical Journal. 153 (3): 7. arXiv:1610.06522. Bibcode:2017AJ....153..125S. doi:10.3847/1538-3881/aa5d0c. S2CID 119296636. 125.
  15. ^ Van Leeuwen, F. (2007). "Validation of the new Hipparcos reduction". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 474 (2): 653–664. arXiv:0708.1752. Bibcode:2007A&A...474..653V. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078357. S2CID 18759600.
  16. ^ Gaia Collaboration (2016). "VizieR Online Data Catalog: Gaia DR1 (Gaia Collaboration, 2016)". VizieR On-line Data Catalog: I/337. Originally Published in: Astron. Astrophys. 1337. Bibcode:2016yCat.1337....0G. doi:10.26093/cds/vizier.1337.
  17. ^ Brown, A. G. A.; et al. (Gaia collaboration) (August 2018). "Gaia Data Release 2: Summary of the contents and survey properties". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 616. A1. arXiv:1804.09365. Bibcode:2018A&A...616A...1G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201833051. Gaia DR2 record for this source at VizieR.

External links[edit]