Southern massive stars at high angular resolution: Observational campaign and companion detection

H. Sana, J. B. Le Bouquin, S. Lacour, J. P. Berger, G. Duvert, L. Gauchet, B. Norris, J. Olofsson, D. Pickel, G. Zins, O. Absil, A. De Koter, K. Kratter, O. Schnurr, H. Zinnecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Multiplicity is one of the most fundamental observable properties of massive O-type stars and offers a promising way to discriminate between massive star formation theories. Nevertheless, companions at separations between 1 and 100 milliarcsec (mas) remain mostly unknown due to intrinsic observational limitations. At a typical distance of 2 kpc, this corresponds to projected physical separations of 2-200 AU. The Southern MAssive Stars at High angular resolution survey (SMaSH+) was designed to fill this gap by providing the first systematic interferometric survey of Galactic massive stars. We observed 117 O-type stars with VLTI/PIONIER and 162 O-type stars with NACO/Sparse Aperture Masking (SAM), probing the separation ranges 1-45 and 30-250 mas and brightness contrasts of ΔH < 4 and ΔH < 5, respectively. Taking advantage of NACO's field of view, we further uniformly searched for visual companions in an 8″ radius down to ΔH = 8. This paper describes observations and data analysis, reports the discovery of almost 200 new companions in the separation range from 1 mas to 8″ and presents a catalog of detections, including the first resolved measurements of over a dozen known long-period spectroscopic binaries. Excluding known runaway stars for which no companions are detected, 96 objects in our main sample (δ < 0°; H < 7.5) were observed both with PIONIER and NACO/SAM. The fraction of these stars with at least one resolved companion within 200 mas is 0.53. Accounting for known but unresolved spectroscopic or eclipsing companions, the multiplicity fraction at separation ρ < 8″ increases to f m = 0.91 ± 0.03. The fraction of luminosity class V stars that have a bound companion reaches 100% at 30 mas while their average number of physically connected companions within 8″ is f c = 2.2 ± 0.3. This demonstrates that massive stars form nearly exclusively in multiple systems. The nine non-thermal radio emitters observed by SMaSH+ are all resolved, including the newly discovered pairs HD 168112 and CPD-47°2963. This lends strong support to the universality of the wind-wind collision scenario to explain the non-thermal emission from O-type stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Binaries: visual
  • Stars: early-type
  • Stars: imaging
  • Surveys
  • Techniques: high angular resolution
  • Techniques: interferometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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