Fundamental properties of O-type stars

Sara R. Heap, Thierry Lanz, Ivan Hubeny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


We present a comprehensive analysis of high-resolution, far-ultraviolet HST STIS, FUSE, and optical spectra of 18 O stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Our analysis is based on the OSTAR2002 grid of NLTE metal-line-blanketed model atmospheres calculated with our code TLUSTY. We systematically explore and present the sensitivity of various UV and optical lines to different stellar parameters. We have obtained consistent fits of the UV and the optical spectrum to derive the effective temperature, surface gravity, surface composition, and microturbulent velocity of each star. Stellar radii, masses, and luminosities follow directly. For stars of the same spectral subtype, we find a general good agreement between effective temperature determinations obtained with TLUSTY, CMFGEN, and FASTWIND models, which are all lower than the standard T eff calibration of O stars. We propose a new calibration between the spectral type and effective temperature based on our results from UV metal lines, as well as optical hydrogen and helium lines. The lower effective temperatures translate into ionizing luminosities that are smaller by a factor of 3 compared to luminosities inferred from previous standard calibrations. The chemical composition analysis reveals that the surface of about 80% of the program stars is moderately to strongly enriched in nitrogen, while showing the original helium, carbon, and oxygen abundances. Our results support the new stellar evolution models that predict that the surface of fast rotating stars becomes nitrogen-rich during the main-sequence phase because of rotationally induced mixing. Enrichment factors are, however, larger than predicted by stellar evolution models. Most stars exhibit the "mass discrepancy" problem, which we interpret as a result of fast rotation that lowers the measured effective gravity. Nitrogen enrichment and low spectroscopic masses are therefore two manifestations of fast rotation. Our study thus emphasizes the importance of rotation in our understanding of the properties of massive stars and provides a framework for investigating populations of low-metallicity massive stars at low and high redshifts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-432
Number of pages24
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Feb 10 2006


  • Magellanic Clouds
  • Stars: Abundances
  • Stars: Atmospheres
  • Stars: Early-type
  • Stars: Fundamental parameters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Fundamental properties of O-type stars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this