First visual orbit for the prototypical colliding-wind binary WR 140

J. D. Monnier, Ming Zhao, E. Pedretti, R. Millan-Gabet, J.-P. Berger, W. Traub, F. P. Schloerb, T. ten Brummelaar, H. McAlister, S. Ridgway, L. Sturmann, J. Sturmann, N. Turner, F. Baron, S. Kraus, A. Tannirkulam, P. M. Williams

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40 Citations (Scopus)


Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars represent one of the final stages of massive stellar evolution. Relatively little is known about this short-lived phase and we currently lack reliable mass, distance, and binarity determinations for a representative sample. Here we report the first visual orbit for WR 140 (= HD193793), a WC7+O5 binary system known for its periodic dust production episodes triggered by intense colliding winds near periastron passage. The Infrared-Optical Telescope Array and Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy interferometers resolved the pair of stars in each year from 2003 to 2009, covering most of the highly eccentric, 7.9 year orbit. Combining our results with the recently improved double-line spectroscopic orbit of Fahed et al., we find the WR 140 system is located at a distance of 1.67 ± 0.03 kpc, composed of a WR star with M WR = 14.9 ± 0.5 M &sun; and an O star with M O = 35.9 ± 1.3 M &sun;. Our precision orbit yields key parameters with uncertainties ~6× smaller than previous work and paves the way for detailed modeling of the system. Our newly measured flux ratios at the near-infrared H and Ks bands allow a spectral energy distribution decomposition and analysis of the component evolutionary states.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


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