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Astron. Astrophys. 355, 607-616 (2000)

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Long-term photometry of the Wolf-Rayet stars WR 137, WR 140, WR 148, and WR 153 *

K.P. Panov 1, M. Altmann 2 and W. Seggewiss 2

1 Institute of Astronomy, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, Bulgaria
2 Universitätssternwarte Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany

Received 27 August 1999 / Accepted 18 January 2000


In 1991, a long term UBV-photometry campaign of four Wolf-Rayet stars was started using the 60 cm telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory Rozhen, Bulgaria. Here we report on our observational results and discuss the light variations.

The star WR 137 was observed during 1991 - 1998. No indications of eclipses were found, though random light variations with small amplitudes exist, which are probably due to dynamical wind instabilities.

WR 140 was also monitored between 1991 and 1998. In 1993, a dip in the light curve in all passbands was observed shortly after periastron passage, with amplitude of 0.03 mag in V. This is interpreted in terms of an "eclipse" by dust condensation in the WR-wind. The amplitude of the eclipse increases towards shorter wavelengths; thus, electron scattering alone is not sufficient to explain the observations. An additional source of opacity is required, possibly Rayleigh scattering. After the eclipse, the light in all passbands gradually increased to reach the "pre-eclipse" level in 1998. The very broad shape of the light minimum suggests that a dust envelope was built up around the WR-star at periastron passage by wind-wind interaction, and was gradually dispersed after 1993.

Our observations of WR 148 (WR + c?) confirm the 4.3 d period; however, they also show additional significant scatter. Another interesting finding is a long-term variation of the mean light (and, possibly, of the amplitude) on a time scale of years. There is some indication of a 4 year cycle of that long-term variation. We discuss the implications for the binary model.

Our photometry of WR 153 is consistent with the quadruple model of this star by showing that both orbital periods, 6.7 d (pair A) and 3.5 d (pair B), exist in the light variations. A search in the HIPPARCOS photometric data also reveals both periods, which is an independant confirmation. No other periods in the light variability of that star are found. The longer period light curve shows only one minimum, which might be due to an atmospheric eclipse; the shorter period light curve shows two minima, indicating that both stars in pair B are eclipsing each other.

Key words: techniques: photometric – stars: binaries: eclipsing – stars: binaries: spectroscopic – stars: circumstellar matter – stars: Wolf-Rayet

* Based on observations collected at the National Astronomical Observatory Rozhen, Bulgaria

Send offprint requests to: K.P. Panov (kpanov@astro.bas.bg)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: March 9, 2000