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Astron. Astrophys. 326, 1117-1134 (1997)

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A spectroscopic investigation of P Cygni

I. H and He I lines

F. Najarro 1, D.J. Hillier 2 and O. Stahl 3

1 Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik der Universität München, Scheinerstr. 1, D-81679 München, Germany
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh, 3941 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
3 Landessternwarte Königstuhl, D-69117 Heidelberg, Germany

Received 27 March 1997 / Accepted 3 June 1997


We present a detailed spectroscopic analysis of the H and He I spectrum of the Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) P Cygni. The observational constraints for our investigation are given by the mean optical and near-IR spectra obtained by Stahl et al. (1993) and published UV, optical, IR and radio continuum measurements of the star.

Within the parameter domain of interest we have investigated how line strengths, line shapes and the emergent energy distribution behave as a function of stellar parameters such as temperature, luminosity, wind density, etc. The sensitivity of the H and He I line profiles to model parameters allows a quantitative spectroscopic analysis of P Cygni to be performed. The derived parameters for P Cygni place it near a regime where two classes of models exist - those in which H remains fully ionized in the wind, and those in which H eventually recombines in the wind. The transition between the two classes of models is dramatic - a 5% change in luminosity or mass-loss is sufficient. The shape of the P Cygni absorption on the H [FORMULA] profile and the radio variability indicates that H must recombine in P Cygni's wind.

As for Wolf-Rayet (W-R) stars we find that we can generate a set of homologous models which are capable of explaining, within observational errors, the flux distribution and the line profiles equally well. Scaling relations for the homologous models have been determined, but to first order they have the same [FORMULA] and the same wind density parameter ([FORMULA]). Consequently it is impossible to derive [FORMULA] from a spectroscopic analysis.

Assuming [FORMULA], the following stellar parameters for P Cygni are derived:


These imply a stellar distance of [FORMULA] kpc, which is consistent with determinations in the literature.

Continuum fluxes and the observed optical and near-infrared H and He I line profiles are well reproduced by the model. The derived stellar parameters and the high helium abundance indicates that P Cygni is highly evolved.

Key words: stars: early-type – stars: mass-loss – stars: atmospheres – stars: supergiants – stars: individual: P Cygni

Send offprint requests to: F. Najarro

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: April 8, 1998