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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Abstract The mass-loss rates from single massive stars are high enough to form radio photospheres at large distances from the stellar surface, where the wind is optically thick to (thermal) free–free opacity. Here we calculate the far-infrared, millimeter, and radio band spectral energy distributions (SEDs) that can result from the combination of free–free processes and synchrotron emission, to explore the conditions for nonthermal SEDs. Simplifying assumptions are adopted in terms of scaling relations for the magnetic field strength and the spatial distribution of relativistic electrons. The wind is assumed to be spherically symmetric, and we consider the effect of Razin suppression on the synchrotron emission. Under these conditions, long-wavelength SEDs with synchrotron emission can be either more steep or more shallow than the canonical asymptotic power-law SED from a nonmagnetic wind. When nonthermal emission is present, the resultant SED shape is generally not a power law; however, the variation in the slope can change slowly with wavelength. Consequently, over a limited range of wavelengths, the SED can masquerade as approximately a power law. While most observed nonthermal long-wavelength spectra are associated with binarity, synchrotron emission can have only a mild influence on single-star SEDs, requiring finer levels of wavelength samplingmore »for the detection of the effect.« less
  3. Abstract Massive-star binaries are critical laboratories for measuring masses and stellar wind mass-loss rates. A major challenge is inferring viewing inclination and extracting information about the colliding-wind interaction (CWI) region. Polarimetric variability from electron scattering in the highly ionized winds provides important diagnostic information about system geometry. We combine for the first time the well-known generalized treatment of Brown et al. for variable polarization from binaries with the semianalytic solution for the geometry and surface density CWI shock interface between the winds based on Cantó et al. Our calculations include some simplifications in the form of inverse-square law wind densities and the assumption of axisymmetry, but in so doing they arrive at several robust conclusions. One is that when the winds are nearly equal (e.g., O+O binaries) the polarization has a relatively mild decline with binary separation. Another is that despite Thomson scattering being a gray opacity, the continuum polarization can show chromatic effects at ultraviolet wavelengths but will be mostly constant at longer wavelengths. Finally, when one wind dominates the other, as, for example, in WR+OB binaries, the polarization is expected to be larger at wavelengths where the OB component is more luminous and generally smaller at wavelengths wheremore »the WR component is more luminous. This behavior arises because, from the perspective of the WR star, the distortion of the scattering envelope from spherical is a minor perturbation situated far from the WR star. By contrast, the polarization contribution from the OB star is dominated by the geometry of the CWI shock.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 28, 2023
  4. Abstract Understanding the evolution of massive binary stars requires accurate estimates of their masses. This understanding is critically important because massive star evolution can potentially lead to gravitational-wave sources such as binary black holes or neutron stars. For Wolf–Rayet (WR) stars with optically thick stellar winds, their masses can only be determined with accurate inclination angle estimates from binary systems which have spectroscopic M sin i measurements. Orbitally phased polarization signals can encode the inclination angle of binary systems, where the WR winds act as scattering regions. We investigated four Wolf–Rayet + O star binary systems, WR 42, WR 79, WR 127, and WR 153, with publicly available phased polarization data to estimate their masses. To avoid the biases present in analytic models of polarization while retaining computational expediency, we used a Monte Carlo radiative-transfer model accurately emulated by a neural network. We used the emulated model to investigate the posterior distribution of the parameters of our four systems. Our mass estimates calculated from the estimated inclination angles put strong constraints on existing mass estimates for three of the systems, and disagree with the existing mass estimates for WR 153. We recommend a concerted effort to obtain polarization observations thatmore »can be used to estimate the masses of WR binary systems and increase our understanding of their evolutionary paths.« less