M. De Becker
J.-B. Le Bouquin
- The long-period eccentric orbit of the particle accelerator HD 167971 revealed by long baseline interferometry
- Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Volume | Issue number
- 423 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy (API)
Using optical long baseline interferometry, we resolved for the first time the two wide components of HD 167971, a candidate hierarchical triple system known to efficiently accelerate particles. Our multi-epoch Very Large Telescope Interferometer observations provide direct evidence for a gravitational link between the O8 supergiant and the close eclipsing O + O binary. The separation varies from 8 to 15 mas over the 3-year baseline of our observations, suggesting that the components evolve on a wide and very eccentric orbit (most probably e > 0.5). These results provide evidence that the wide orbit revealed by our study is not coplanar with the orbit of the inner eclipsing binary. From our measurements of the near-infrared luminosity ratio, we constrain the spectral classification of the components in the close binary to be O6-O7, and confirm that these stars are likely main-sequence objects. Our results are discussed in the context of the bright non-thermal radio emission already reported for this system, and we provide arguments in favour of a maximum radio emission coincident with periastron passage. HD 167971 turns out to be an efficient O-type particle accelerator that constitutes a valuable target for future high angular resolution radio imaging using Very Long Baseline Interferometry facilities.
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