O-type star

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Relative size of O-type stars with other main-sequence stars

An O-type star is a hot, blue-white star of spectral type O in the Yerkes classification system employed by astronomers. They have temperatures in excess of 30,000 Kelvin (K) and so appear to the left on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. Stars of this type are identified by their dominant Helium II absorption lines, strong lines of other ionised elements, and Hydrogen and neutral He lines weaker than spectral type B.

Stars of this type are particularly rare; only 0.00003% of the main sequence are O-type stars. However, because they are usually very bright, they can be seen when further away than dimmer stars, and four of the 90 brightest stars as seen from Earth are O type.[1] Due to high temperature and luminosity, O-type stars end their lives rather quickly in violent supernova explosions, resulting in black holes or neutron stars. Most of these stars are young massive main sequence, giant, or supergiant stars, but the central stars of planetary nebulae, old low-mass stars near the end of their lives, also usually have O spectra.

O-type stars are typically located in regions of active star formation, such as the spiral arms of a spiral galaxy or a pair of galaxies undergoing collision and merger (such as the Antennae Galaxies). These stars illuminate any surrounding material and are largely responsible for the distinct coloration of a galaxy's arms. Furthermore, O-type stars are also frequent in multiple star systems where their evolution is more difficult to predict due to mass transfer and the possibility of component stars going supernova at different times.

Classification[edit]

O-type stars are classified by the relative strength of certain spectral lines.[2] The key lines are the prominent HeII lines at 454.1 nm and 420.0 nm, which vary from very weak at O9.5 to very strong in O2–O7, and the HeI lines at 447.1 nm and 402.6 nm, which vary from absent in O2/3 to prominent in O9.5. The O7 class is defined where the 454.1-nanometer HeII and 447.1-nanometer HeI lines have equal strength. The very hottest O-type stars have such weak neutral He lines that they are best separated on the relative strength of the NIII and NIV lines.[3]

The luminosity classes of O-type stars are assigned on the relative strengths of the HeII emission lines and certain ionised N and Si lines. These are indicated by the "f" suffix on the spectral type, with "f" alone indicating NIII and HeII emission, "(f)" meaning the He emission is weak or absent, "((f))" meaning the N emission is weak or absent, "f*" indicating the addition of very strong NIV emission, and "f+" the presence of SiIV emission. Luminosity class V, main-sequence stars, generally have weak or missing emission lines, with giants and supergiants showing increasing emission line strength. At O2–O4, the distinction between main sequence and supergiant stars is narrow and may not even represent true luminosity or evolutionary differences. At intermediate O5–O8 classes, the distinction between O((f)) main sequence, O(f) giants, and Of supergiants is well-defined and represents a definite increase in luminosity. The increasing strength of SiIV emission is also an indicator of increasing luminosity and this is the primary means of assigning luminosity classes to the late O-type stars.[4]

The luminosity class sub-type Vz is defined uniquely for O stars, specifically types O3 to O8. The spectra of these stars have an unusually strong 468.6 nm ionised helium line, thought to indicate extreme youth. The "z" stands for zero-age.[5]

To help with the classification of O-type stars, standard examples are listed for most of the defined types. The following table gives one of the standard stars for each spectral type. In some cases, a standard star has not been defined. For spectral types O2 to O5.5, supergiants are not split into Ia/Iab/Ib sub-types. Subgiant spectral types are not defined for types O2, O2.5, or O3. Bright giant luminosity classes are not defined for stars hotter than O6.[6]

Class O spectral standard stars[6]
Vz V IV III II I Ib Iab Ia
O2 BI 253[3] HD 269810[3] HD 93129 Aa/Ab
O3 HD 64568 tbd tbd Cyg OB2-7
O3.5 HD 93128 HD 93129 B[3] Pismis 24-17 Sher 18
O4 HD 96715 HD 46223 HD 93250 ST 2-22[3] HD 15570
O4.5 tbd HD 15629 HD 193682 tbd Cyg OB2-9
O5 HD 46150 HDE 319699 HD 168112 HD 93843 CPD -47 2963 AB
O5.5 tbd HD 93204 tbd tbd Cyg OB2-11
O6 HD 42088 ALS 4880 HD 101190 Aa/Ab HDE 338931 HDE 229196 tbd tbd HD 169582
O6.5 HD 91572 HD 12993 HDE 322417 HD 152733 Aa/Ab HD 157857 tbd tbd HD 163758
O7 HD 97966 HD 93146 ALS 12320 Cyg OB2-4 A HD 94963 HD 69464 tbd tbd
O7.5 HD 152590 HD 35619 HD 97319 HD 163800 HD 34656 HD 17603 9 Sge tbd
O8 HDE 305539 HD 101223 HD 94024 λ Ori A 63 Oph BD-11°4586 HD 225160 HD 151804
O8.5 HD 14633 Aa/Ab HD 46966 Aa/Ab HD 114737 A/B HD 75211 HD 125241 tbd HDE 303492
O9 10 Lac HD 93028 HD 93249 A τ CMa Aa/Ab 19 Cep HD 202124 α Cam
O9.2 HD 46202 HD 96622 HD 16832 ALS 11761 HD 76968 HD 218915 HD 152424
O9.5 AE Aur, μ Col HD 192001 HD 96264 δ Ori Aa/Ab tbd HD 188209 tbd
O9.7 υ Ori HD 207538 HD 189957 HD 68450 HD 47432 μ Nor GS Mus

Characteristics[edit]

The Trifid Nebula (M20) is sculpted and lit by the luminous O7.5III star visible at its centre in this infrared image.

O-type stars are hot and luminous. They have characteristic surface temperatures ranging from 30,000 to 52,000 K, emit intense ultraviolet light, and so appear in the visible spectrum as bluish-white. Because of their high temperatures the luminosities of main sequence O-type stars range from 10,000 times the Sun to around 1,000,000 times, giants from 100,000 times the Sun to over 1,000,000, and supergiants from about 200,000 times the Sun to several million times.[7]

Other stars in the same temperature range include rare O-type subdwarf (sdO) stars, the central stars of planetary nebulae (CSPNe), and white dwarfs. The white dwarfs have their own spectral classification scheme, but many CSPNe have O-type spectra. Even these small low-mass subdwarfs and CSPNe have luminosities several hundred to several thousand times that of the Sun. sdO-type stars generally have somewhat higher temperatures than massive O-type stars, up to 100,000K.[8]

O-type stars represent the highest masses of stars on the main sequence. The coolest of them have initial masses of around 16 times the Sun.[9] It is unclear what the upper limit to the mass of an O-type star would be. At solar metallicity levels, stars should not be able to form with masses above 120–150 solar masses, but at lower metallicity this limit is much higher. O-type stars form only a tiny fraction of main-sequence stars and the vast majority of these are towards the lower end of the mass range. The most massive and hottest types O3 and O2 are extremely rare, were only defined in 1971[10] and 2002[3] respectively, and only a handful are known in total. Giant and supergiant stars are somewhat less massive than the most massive main sequence O-type stars due to mass loss, but are still among the most massive stars known.

Because the luminosity of these stars increases out of proportion to their masses, they have correspondingly shorter lifespans. The most massive spend less than a million years on the main sequence and explode as supernovae after three or four million years. The least luminous O-type stars can remain on the main sequence for around 10 million years, but cool slowly during that time and become early B-type stars. No massive star remains with spectral class O for more than about 5–6 million years.[7][9] Although sdO and CSPNe stars are low-mass stars billions of years old, the time spent in this phase of their lives is extremely short, of the order of 10,000,000 years.[11]

It has been estimated that there are around 20,000 massive O-type stars in the galaxy. The low-mass sdO and CSPNe O-type stars are probably more common, although less luminous and therefore harder to find. Despite their short lifetimes, they are thought to be normal stages in the evolution of common stars only a little more massive than the Sun.

Structure[edit]

CNO cycle that powers massive O-type stars.
Structure of low-mass, intermediate-mass, and high-mass stars. M indicates solar masses.

O-type main-sequence stars are fueled by nuclear fusion, as all main-sequence stars are. However, the high mass of O-type stars results in extremely high core temperatures. At these temperatures, the CNO cycle dominates the production of the star's energy and consumes its nuclear fuel at a much higher rate than low-mass hydrogen-fusing stars. The intense amount of energy generated by O-type stars cannot be radiated out of the core efficiently enough, and consequently they experience convection in their cores. The radiative zones of O-type stars occur between the core and photosphere. This mixing of core material into the upper layers, which is often enhanced by fast rotation, has a dramatic effect on the evolution of O-type stars. They start to slowly expand and show giant or supergiant characteristics while still burning hydrogen in their cores, then may remain as blue supergiants for much of the time during helium core burning.[9]

sdO-type star cross-section showing inert core and helium shell burning

sdO-type stars and CSPNe have a substantially different structure, although they have a wide range of characteristics and it is not fully understood how they all form and develop. They are thought to have degenerate cores that will eventually become exposed as a white dwarf. Outside the core the stars are mostly helium with a thin layer of hydrogen which is rapidly being lost due to the strong stellar wind. There may be several different origins for this type of star, but at least some of them have a region where Helium is being fused in a shell, which enlarges the core and powers the high luminosity of these small stars.[12]

Evolution[edit]

Evolutionary tracks on the HR diagram. The 15M and 60M tracks are typical of massive O-type stars.

The lifecycle of massive O-type stars from the lower mass limit to 120M has been well modelled in recent years. Stars with different metallicities and rotation rates show considerable variation in their evolution, but the basics remain the same.[9]

O-type stars start to move slowly from the zero-age main sequence almost immediately, gradually becoming cooler and slightly more luminous. Although they may be characterised spectroscopically as giants or supergiants, they continue to burn hydrogen in their cores for several million years and develop in a very different manner from low-mass stars such as the Sun. Most O-type main-sequence stars will evolve more or less horizontally in the HR diagram to cooler temperatures, becoming blue supergiants. Core helium ignition occurs smoothly as the stars expand and cool. There are a number of complex phases depending on the exact mass of the star and other initial conditions, but the lowest mass O-type stars will eventually evolve into red supergiants while still burning helium in their cores. If they do not explode as a supernova first, they will then lose their outer layers and become hotter again, sometimes going through a number of blue loops before finally reaching the Wolf–Rayet stage.

The more-massive stars, initially main-sequence stars hotter than about O9, never become red supergiants because strong convection and high luminosity blow away the outer layers too quickly. 25–60M stars may become yellow hypergiants before either exploding as a supernova or evolving back to hotter temperatures. Above about 60M, O-type stars evolve though a short blue hypergiant or luminous blue variable phase directly to Wolf–Rayet stars. The most massive O-type stars develop a WNLh spectral type as they start to convect material from the core towards the surface, and these are the most luminous stars that exist.

Low to intermediate-mass stars age in a very different way, through red-giant, horizontal-branch, asymptotic-giant-branch (AGB), and then post-AGB phases. Post-AGB evolution generally involves dramatic mass loss, sometimes leaving a planetary nebula, and leaving an increasingly hot exposed stellar interior. If there is sufficient helium and hydrogen remaining, these small but extremely hot stars have an O-type spectrum. They increase in temperature until shell burning and mass loss ceases, then they cool into white dwarfs.

At certain masses or chemical makeups, or perhaps as a result of binary interactions, some of these lower-mass stars become unusually hot during the horizontal branch or AGB phases. There may be multiple reasons, not fully understood, including stellar mergers or very late thermal pulses re-igniting post-AGB stars. These appear as very hot OB stars, but only moderately luminous and below the main sequence. There are both O (sdO) and B (sdB) hot subdwarfs, although they may develop in entirely different ways. The sdO-type stars have fairly normal O spectra but luminosities only around a thousand times the Sun.

Examples[edit]

O-type stars are rare but luminous, so they are easy to detect and there are a number of naked eye examples.

Main-sequence[edit]

The brightest star in the Trapezium cluster is O7V star θ1 Orionis C. The other three are B0.5 and B1 main-sequence stars.

Giants[edit]

Alnitak is a triple star system with an O9.7 supergiant and an O9 giant as well as a B0 giant. These stars illuminate the nearby Flame Nebula.

Supergiants[edit]

Central stars of planetary nebulae[edit]

The central star of NGC 6826 is a low-mass O6 star.

Subdwarfs[edit]

Location[edit]

The O-type star in Cepheus B, HD 217086, illuminates the molecular cloud with ultraviolet radiation, driving it back while compressing it, triggering the formation of new stars.

Spiral arms[edit]

O-type main-sequence stars tend to appear in the spiral arms of spiral galaxies. This is because of the fact that, as a spiral arm moves through space, it compresses any molecular clouds in its way. The initial compression of these molecular clouds leads to the formation of stars, some of which are O- and B-type stars. Also, as these stars have shorter lifetimes, they cannot move great distances before their death and so they stay in or relatively near to the spiral arm in which they formed. On the other hand, less massive stars live longer and thus are found throughout the galactic disc, including in between the spiral arms.

O/OB associations[edit]

Stellar associations are groups of stars that are gravitationally unbound from the beginning of their formation. The stars in stellar associations are moving from one another so rapidly that gravitational forces cannot keep them together. In young stellar associations, most of the light comes from O- and B-type stars, so such associations are called OB associations.

Molecular clouds[edit]

The birth of an O-type star in a molecular cloud has a destructive effect on the cloud, but also may trigger the formation of new stars. O-type stars emit copious amounts of ultraviolet radiation, which ionizes the gas in the cloud and pushes it away.[13] O-type stars also have powerful stellar winds, with velocities of thousands of kilometers per second, which can blow a bubble in the molecular cloud around the star.[14] O-type stars explode as supernovae when they die, releasing vast amounts of energy, contributing to the disruption of a molecular cloud.[15] These effects disperse the remaining molecular material in a star-forming region, ultimately stopping the birth of new stars, and possibly leaving behind a young open cluster.

Nevertheless, before the cloud is disrupted, the sweeping up of material by an expanding bubble (called Collect and Collapse) or the compression of existing cloudlets (called Radiation Driven Implosion) may lead to the birth of new stars. Evidence of triggered star-formation has been observed in a number of star-forming regions, such as Cepheus B and the Elephant's Trunk nebula (where it may account for 14–25% of stars formed).[16][17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Namely Gamma Velorum, Alnitak (Zeta Orionis), Mintaka (Delta Orionis), and Zeta Puppis.
  2. ^ Walborn, N. R.; Fitzpatrick, E. L. (1990). "Contemporary optical spectral classification of the OB stars – A digital atlas". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 102: 379. Bibcode:1990PASP..102..379W. doi:10.1086/132646. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Walborn, N. R.; Howarth, I. D.; Lennon, D. J.; Massey, P.; Oey, M. S.; Moffat, A. F. J.; Skalkowski, G.; Morrell, N. I.; Drissen, L.; Parker, J. W. (2002). "A New Spectral Classification System for the Earliest O Stars: Definition of Type O2". The Astronomical Journal. 123 (5): 2754. Bibcode:2002AJ....123.2754W. doi:10.1086/339831. 
  4. ^ Markova, N.; Puls, J.; Scuderi, S.; Simon-Diaz, S.; Herrero, A. (2011). "Spectroscopic and physical parameters of Galactic O-type stars. I. Effects of rotation and spectral resolving power in the spectral classification of dwarfs and giants". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 530: A11. arXiv:1103.3357v1Freely accessible. Bibcode:2011A&A...530A..11M. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201015956. 
  5. ^ Arias, Julia I.; Walborn, Nolan R.; Simón Díaz, Sergio; Barbá, Rodolfo H.; Maíz Apellániz, Jesús; Sabín-Sanjulián, Carolina; Gamen, Roberto C.; Morrell, Nidia I.; Sota, Alfredo; Marco, Amparo; Negueruela, Ignacio; Leão, João R. S.; Herrero, Artemio; Alfaro, Emilio J. (2016). "Spectral Classification and Properties of the OVz Stars in the Galactic O Star Spectroscopic Survey (GOSSS)". The Astronomical Journal. 152 (2): 31. arXiv:1604.03842Freely accessible. Bibcode:2016AJ....152...31A. doi:10.3847/0004-6256/152/2/31. 
  6. ^ a b Maíz Apellániz, J.; Sota, A.; Arias, J. I.; Barbá, R. H.; Walborn, N. R.; Simón-Díaz, S.; Negueruela, I.; Marco, A.; Leão, J. R. S.; Herrero, A.; Gamen, R. C.; Alfaro, E. J. (2016). "The Galactic O-Star Spectroscopic Survey (GOSSS). III. 142 Additional O-type Systems". The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. 224: 4. arXiv:1602.01336Freely accessible. Bibcode:2016ApJS..224....4M. doi:10.3847/0067-0049/224/1/4. 
  7. ^ a b Carsten Weidner; Jorick Vink (2010). "The masses, and the mass discrepancy of O-type stars". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 524: A98. arXiv:1010.2204v1Freely accessible. Bibcode:2010A&A...524A..98W. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201014491. 
  8. ^ Aller, A.; Miranda, L. F.; Ulla, A.; Vázquez, R.; Guillén, P. F.; Olguín, L.; Rodríguez-López, C.; Thejll, P.; Oreiro, R.; Manteiga, M.; Pérez, E. (2013). "Detection of a multi-shell planetary nebula around the hot subdwarf O-type star 2MASS J19310888+4324577". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 552: A25. arXiv:1301.7210v1Freely accessible. Bibcode:2013A&A...552A..25A. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201219560. 
  9. ^ a b c d Meynet, G.; Maeder, A. (2003). "Stellar evolution with rotation". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 404 (3): 975. arXiv:astro-ph/0304069Freely accessible. Bibcode:2003A&A...404..975M. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20030512. 
  10. ^ Walborn, N. R. (1971). "Some Extremely Early O Stars Near Eta Carinae". The Astrophysical Journal. 167: L31. Bibcode:1971ApJ...167L..31W. doi:10.1086/180754. 
  11. ^ Yu, S.; Li, L. (2009). "Hot subdwarfs from the stable Roche lobe overflow channel". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 503: 151. arXiv:0906.2316Freely accessible. Bibcode:2009A&A...503..151Y. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/200809454. 
  12. ^ John D Landstreet; Stefano Bagnulo; Luca Fossati; Stefan Jordan; Simon J O'Toole (2012). "The magnetic fields of hot subdwarf stars". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 541: A100. arXiv:1203.6815v1Freely accessible. Bibcode:2012A&A...541A.100L. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201219178. 
  13. ^ Dale, J. E.; et al. (2013). "Ionizing feedback from massive stars in massive clusters – III. Disruption of partially unbound clouds". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 430 (1): 234–246. arXiv:1212.2011Freely accessible. Bibcode:2013MNRAS.430..234D. doi:10.1093/mnras/sts592. 
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  15. ^ Dekel, A.; et al. (2013). "Steady outflows in giant clumps of high-z disc galaxies during migration and growth by accretion". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 432 (1): 455–467. arXiv:1302.4457Freely accessible. Bibcode:2013MNRAS.432..455D. doi:10.1093/mnras/stt480. 
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