From Dust to Nanodust: Resolving Circumstellar Dust from the Colliding-wind Binary Wolf-Rayet 140

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title> jats:pWolf-Rayet (WR) 140 is the archetypal periodic dust-forming colliding-wind binary that hosts a carbon-rich WR (WC) star and an O-star companion with an orbital period of 7.93 yr and an orbital eccentricity of 0.9. Throughout the past few decades, multiple dust-formation episodes from WR 140 have been observed that are linked to the binary orbit and occur near the time of periastron passage. Given its predictable dust-formation episodes, WR 140 presents an ideal astrophysical laboratory to investigate the formation and evolution of dust in the hostile environment around a massive binary system. In this paper, we present near- and mid-infrared (IR) spectroscopic and imaging observations of WR 140 with Subaru/SCExAO+CHARIS, Keck/NIRC2+PyWFS, and Subaru/Cooled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrograph taken between 2020 June and September that resolve the circumstellar dust emission linked to its most recent dust-formation episode in 2016 December. Our spectral energy distribution analysis of WR 140's resolved circumstellar dust emission reveals the presence of a hot (jats:italicT</jats:italic> jats:sub jats:italicd</jats:italic> </jats:sub> ∼ 1000 K) near-IR dust component that is co-spatial with the previously known and cooler (jats:italicT</jats:italic> jats:sub jats:italicd</jats:italic> </jats:sub> ∼ 500 K) mid-IR dust component composed of 300–500 Å sized dust grains. We attribute the hot near-IR dust emission to the presence of nano-sized (nanodust) grains and suggest they were formed from grain–grain collisions or the rotational disruption of the larger grain size population by radiative torques in the strong radiation field from the central binary. Lastly, we speculate on the astrophysical implications of nanodust formation around colliding-wind WC binaries, which may present an early source of carbonaceous nanodust in the interstellar medium.</jats:p>

5109 Space Sciences, 51 Physical Sciences
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Astrophysical Journal
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American Astronomical Society