Research Division Seminar
Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram: from massive Wolf-Rayet stars to stripped helium stars
"Classical Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars" represent a class of hot, hydrogen-depleted stars wtih powerful stellar winds and are prominent progenitors of black holes. Next to their unparalleled radiative and mechanical energy feedback, they offer unique probes of massive-star evolution at the upper-mass end. To become a classical WR star, single stars require substantial mass-loss to strip their outer, hydrogen-rich layers, implying that only very massive stars could enter the WR phase. However, mass-transfer in binaries can further aid in the stripping of stars and form Wolf-Rayet stars, or more generally helium stars, at lower masses. Due to the decrease of mass-loss with metallicity, it has been predicted that WR stars at low metallicity tend to form in binaries. However, this has so far not been supported by observations.
In my talk, I will give an overview on our current knowledge of the properties of Wolf-Rayet populations in the Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds based on exhaustive spectral analyses. I will illustrate why binary formation does not necessarily dominate the evolution of WR stars at low metallicity, and highlight important discrepancies between theory and observations of WR stars. I will discuss the observed rarity of intermediate mass helium stars, and present recent reports of unique helium stars in the exotic binaries LB-1 and HR 6819.