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The Structured Outflows of Massive Stars: A Tale of Theory and Observation

Prof. Alex Fullerton
Space Telescope Science Institute

February 28th, 2019


The growth of astrophysical understanding typically results fromthe constructive interplay between theoretical ideas andobservational insights, with each mode of exploration drivingprogress at different times. The result is invariably a morecomplicated but richer picture of the phenomenon than initiallyenvisaged, as well as deeper appreciation of the behavior ofcomplex systems.In this talk, I will use the development of our understanding ofthe structure of outflows from massive O- and B-type stars toillustrate this collaborative “dance”. Starting from the smooth,spherically symmetric models for radiatively driven windsdeveloped in the late 1960s, our view of these outflows hasevolved to include the growth of inhomogeneities on a variety ofspatial scales. Explanations for the origin of this structure havein turn prompted the realization that non-radiative processesmust also shape the emergence of the wind from the stellarphotosphere. Consequently, O- and B-type stars are morecomplicated – and interesting! – objects than often thought.While many fruitful avenues of research remain to be explored,the current paradigm provides a (mostly) self-consistent pictureof massive stars and their outflows.