The purple haze of ν Carinae: Binary-induced variability?

Nathan Smith, Jon A. Morse, Nicholas R. Collins, Theodore R. Gull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Asymmetric variability in ultraviolet images of the Homunculus obtained with the Advanced Camera for Surveys/High Resolution Camera on the Hubble Space Telescope suggests that ν Carinae is indeed a binary system. Images obtained before, during, and after the recent "spectroscopic event" in 2003.5 show alternating patterns of bright spots and shadows on opposite sides of the star before and after the event, providing a strong geometric argument for an azimuthally evolving, asymmetric UV radiation field as one might predict in some binary models. The simplest interpretation of these UV images, where excess UV escapes from the secondary star in the direction away from the primary, places the major axis of the eccentric orbit roughly perpendicular to our line of sight, sharing the same equatorial plane as the Homunculus, and with apastron for the hot secondary star oriented toward the southwest of the primary. However, other orbital orientations may be allowed with more complicated geometries. Selective UV illumination of the wind and ejecta may be partly responsible for line profile variations seen in spectra. The brightness asymmetries cannot be explained plausibly with delays due to light-travel time alone, so a single-star model would require a seriously asymmetric shell ejection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L105-L108
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004


  • Binaries: close
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Stars: individual (ν Carinae)
  • Stars: winds, outflows
  • Ultraviolet: stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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