AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 175 Recent Discoveries in the Far UV
Poster, Thursday, 9:20am-4:00pm, January 12, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[175.11] Detection of a Hot Binary Companion of eta Carinae

G. Sonneborn (NASA's GSFC), R. C. Iping (NASA's GSFC and CUA), T. R. Gull (NASA's GSFC), D. L. Massa (NASA's GSFC and SGT), D. J. Hillier (U. Pittsburgh)

A hot companion of eta Carinae has been detected using high resolution spectra (905 - 1180 A) obtained with the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite. Observations were obtained at two epochs of the 2024-day orbit: 2003 June during ingress to the 2003.5 X-ray eclipse and 2004 April several months after egress. These data show that essentially all the far-UV flux from eta Car shortward of Lyman alpha disappeared at least two days before the start of the X-ray eclipse (2003 June 29), implying that the hot companion, eta Car B, was also eclipsed by the dense wind or extended atmosphere of eta Car A. Analysis of the far-UV spectrum shows that eta Car B is a luminous hot star. N II 1084-1086 emission disappears at the same time as the far-UV continuum, indicating that this feature originates from eta Car B itself or in close proximity to it. The strong N II emission also raises the possibility that the companion star is nitrogen rich. The observed FUV flux levels and spectral features, combined with the timing of their disappearance, is consistent with eta Carinae being a massive binary system.

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