Episodic mass loss from the hydrogen-deficient central star of the planetary nebula Longmore 4

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Abstract

A spectacular transient mass-loss episode from the extremely hot, hydrogen-deficient central star of the planetary nebula (PN) Longmore 4 (Lo 4) was discovered in 1992 by Werner et al. During that event, the star temporarily changed from its normal PG 1159 spectrum to that of an emission-line low-luminosity early-type Wolf-Rayet [WCE] star. After a few days, Lo 4 reverted to its normal, predominantly absorption-line PG 1159 type. To determine whether such events recur, and if so how often, I monitored the optical spectrum of Lo 4 from early 2003 to early 2012. Out of 81 spectra taken at random dates, 4 of them revealed mass-loss outbursts similar to that seen in 1992. This indicates that the episodes recur approximately every 100 days (if the recurrence rate has been approximately constant and the duration of a typical episode is ∼5 days), and that the star is in a high-mass-loss state about 5% of the time. Since the enhanced stellar wind is hydrogen-deficient, it arises from the photosphere and is unlikely to be related to phenomena such as a binary or planetary companion or infalling dust. I speculate on plausible mechanisms for these unique outbursts, including the possibility that they are related to the non-radial GW Vir-type pulsations exhibited by Lo 4. The central star of the PN NGC 246 has stellar parameters similar to those of Lo 4, and it is also a GW Vir-type pulsator with similar pulsation periods. I obtained 167 spectra of NGC 246 between 2003 and 2011, but no mass ejections were found.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume148
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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