Evidence for Evolved Stellar Binary Mergers in Observed B-type Blue Supergiants

Athira Menon, Andrea Ercolino, Miguel A. Urbaneja, Daniel J. Lennon, Artemio Herrero, Ryosuke Hirai, Norbert Langer, Abel Schootemeijer, Emmanouil Chatzopoulos, Juhan Frank, Sagiv Shiber

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Blue supergiants are the brightest stars in their host galaxies, and yet their evolutionary status has been a long-standing problem in stellar astrophysics. In this pioneering work, we present a large sample of 59 early B-type supergiants in the Large Magellanic Cloud with newly derived stellar parameters and identify the signatures of stars born from binary mergers among them. We simulate novel 1D merger models of binaries consisting of post main-sequence giants with helium-rich cores (primaries) and main-sequence companions (secondaries), and consider the effects of interaction of the secondary with the core of the primary along with the mixing induced by the merger in the envelope. Thereafter, the evolution of the newborn 17-43 M ⊙ stars is followed until core-carbon depletion, close to their final pre-explosion stage. Unlike stars born alone with comparable masses, stars born from mergers of evolved binaries are blue throughout their core helium-burning phase and replicate the surface gravities and Hertzsprung-Russell diagram positions of most of our sample, thus indicating that B-type supergiants structurally resemble stars born from such mergers. Moreover, the large nitrogen-to-carbon and nitrogen-to-oxygen number ratios, coupled with helium enhancements exhibited by at least half our data sample, is uniquely reproduced by our merger models. Collectively, these findings provide compelling evidence toward the important role of binary mergers in producing the currently observed population of blue supergiants in our Universe.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL42
Number of pages12
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2024

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