Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 291, 283-294 (1994/11-1)
The origin of extended interstellar shells around Wolf-Rayet stars having bright optical ring nebulae.
NICHOLS J.S. and FESEN R.A.
Abstract (from CDS):
Investigations of the interstellar environment around Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars have led to the discovery of extended shells of gas and dust 50-100pc in diameter in the lines of sight toward three WR stars. In this paper, several origins for these extended shells are discussed. While positional coincidences cannot be excluded, the locations of the WR stars near the projected centers of the shells, the detection of only shortward-shifted, high-velocity UV absorption line components in their IUE spectra, plus commonality of some WR star properties which are rare in the general WR star population suggest some causal connections between the WR stars and formation of interstellar shells. To access whether the high-velocity UV interstellar absorption lines are a frequent phenomenon related to WR stellar winds, we present a survey of such features in all WR stars observed with IUE through 1991. Of 35 stars studied, only four are found to have components with velocity displacements greater than 45km/s which are not attributable to previously identified OB association superbubbles. This means a surprising 82% of non-OB association WR stars show no evidence of high-velocity gas in their lines of sight at IUE's spectral resolution, suggesting that high-velocity interstellar absorption lines are not a common consequence of Wolf-Rayet star stellar winds alone. We review the properties of three WR stars (HD 50896, HD 96548, and HD 192163) which may reside inside extended interstellar shells and find that they are similar in terms of spectral class (WN5-8), presence of an optical ring nebula, and reported photometric variability. Evaluation of possible origins of the extended shells suggests these three stars are in a post X-ray binary stage of high-mass binary star evolution. If this is correct, then the large interstellar shells detected might be evidence of either supernova remnant shells generated by the explosion of the binary's primary star, or non-conservative mass transfer during a Roche Lobe overflow stage of the binary after the supernova explosion. In either of these cases the bright optical ring nebulae associated with these three WR stars may signify recent Roche Lobe overflows consistent with spectroscopic abundance analyses.