On the Gaia DR2 distances for Galactic luminous blue variables

Nathan Smith, Mojgan Aghakhanloo, Jeremiah W. Murphy, Maria R. Drout, Keivan G. Stassun, Jose H. Groh

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27 Scopus citations


We examine parallaxes and distances for Galactic luminous blue variables (LBVs) in the Gaia second data release (DR2). The sample includes 11 LBVs and 14 LBV candidates. For about half of the sample, DR2 distances are either similar to commonly adopted literature values, or the DR2 values have large uncertainties. For the rest, reliable DR2 distances differ significantly from values in the literature, and in most cases the Gaia DR2 distance is smaller. Two key results are that the S Doradus instability strip may not be as clearly defined as previously thought, and that there exists a population of LBVs at relatively low luminosities. LBVs seem to occupy a wide swath from the end of the main sequence at the blue edge to ∼8000 K at the red side, with a spread in luminosity reaching as low as log(L/L) ≈ 4.5. The lower-luminosity group corresponds to effective single-star initial masses of 10–25 M, and includes objects that have been considered as confirmed LBVs. We discuss implications for LBVs including (1) their instability and origin in binary evolution, (2) connections to some supernova (SN) impostors such as the class of SN 2008S-like objects, and (3) LBVs that may be progenitors of SNe with dense circumstellar material across a wide initial mass range. Although some of the Gaia DR2 distances for LBVs have large uncertainty, this represents the most direct and consistent set of Galactic LBV distance estimates available in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1760-1778
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 11 2019


  • Binaries: general
  • Stars: evolution
  • Stars: massive
  • Stars: winds, outflows

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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