On the he II emission in η carinae and the origin of its spectroscopic events

John C. Martin, K. Davidson, Roberta M. Humphreys, D. J. Hillier, K. Ishibashi

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52 Scopus citations


We describe and analyze Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observations of transient emission near 4680 Å in η Car, reported earlier by Steiner & Damineli. If, as seems probable, this is He II λ4687, then it is a unique clue to η Car's 5.5 yr cycle. According to our analysis, several aspects of this feature support a mass-ejection model of the observed spectroscopic events, and not an eclipse model. The He II emission appeared in early 2003, grew to a brief maximum during the 2003.5 spectroscopic event, and then abruptly disappeared. It did not appear in any other HST spectra before or after the event. The peak brightness was larger than previously reported and is difficult to explain even if one allows for an uncertainty factor of order 3. The stellar wind must provide a temporary larger-than-normal energy supply, and we describe a special form of radiative amplification that may also be needed. These characteristics are consistent with a class of mass-ejection or wind-disturbance scenarios, which have implications for the physical structure and stability of η Car.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)474-490
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Mar 20 2006


  • Binaries: general
  • Line: profiles
  • Stars: individual (η Car)
  • Stars: variables: other
  • Stars: winds, outflows


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