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On the nature of the prototype LBV AG Car II. Bistability and Eddington limits

Groh, J. H., Hillier, D. J., Damineli, A., 2011, ApJ 736, 46

We show that the significantly different effective temperatures (Teff) achieved by the luminous blue variable AG Carinae during the consecutive visual minima of 1985-1990 (Teff= 22,800 K) and 2000-2001 (Teff=17,000 K) place the star on different sides of the bistability limit, which occurs in line-driven stellar winds around Teff ~ 21,000 K. Decisive evidence is provided by huge changes in the optical depth of the Lyman continuum in the inner wind as Teff changes during the S Dor cycle. These changes cause different Fe ionization structures in the inner wind. The bistability mechanism is also related to the different wind parameters during visual minima: the wind terminal velocity was 2-3 times higher and the mass-loss rate roughly two times smaller in 1985-1990 than in 2000-2003. We obtain a projected rotational velocity of 220 +- 50 km/s during 1985-1990 which, combined with the high luminosity (L=1.5x10^6 Lsun), puts AG Car extremely close to the Eddington limit modified by rotation (Omega-Gamma limit): for an inclination angle of 90 deg, Gamma_Omega > 1.0 for M< 60 Msun. Based on evolutionary models and mass budget, we obtain an initial mass of ~ 100 Msun and a current mass of 60-70 Msun for AG Car. Therefore, AG Car is close to, if not at, the Omega-Gamma limit during visual minimum. Assuming M=70 Msun, we find that Gamma_Omega decreases from 0.93 to 0.72 as AG Car expands toward visual maximum, suggesting that the star is not above the Eddington limit during maximum phases.

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