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Massive stars and stellar populations

Massive stars influence their environments very strongly. Understanding these stars, and populations of them, from birth to death elucidates many key processes of our origins, such as the cycle of star birth and galaxy evolution, and the origin of the elements (especially those needed for life).

Massive stars in all phases of their life influence their environments very strongly via radiation, winds, and their violent deaths. Understanding these stars, and populations of them, from birth to death therefore elucidates many key processes of our origins, such as the cycle of star birth and galaxy evolution, the origin of the elements (especially those needed for life). Also, their binary interactions give rise to many of the extreme phenomena mentioned above, such as X-ray binaries, gamma-ray bursts, and gravitational-wave sources, providing a natural link between the HEA and ORI sections of the institute. 

To study hot stars we use optical/infra-red spectroscopic and automated transient surveys. We use the observations to improve our theories on the role of stellar winds, internal mixing processes and binary interaction. In the future we want to move well out of our own Galaxy to probe other populations of massive stars. This will improve our models on the evolution of galaxies and colliding massive stars and their remnants.

Massive stars in all phases of their life influence their environments very strongly via radiation, outflows, and their violent deaths. Understanding these stars, and populations of them, from birth to death therefore elucidates many key processes of our origins, such as galaxy formation and evolution, the cosmic star-formation history, and the origin of the elements (especially those needed for life). Also, their binary interactions give rise to many of the extreme phenomena mentioned above, such as X-ray binaries, gamma-ray bursts, and gravitational-wave sources, providing a natural link between the HEA and ORI sections of the institute. Optical/IR spectroscopic study of hot stars is the observational backbone of this theme, complemented by automated transient surveys probing the more violent phases of stellar evolution, and as of recently, gravitational-wave detections. On the theory side, work focuses on formation, evolution, and feedback from massive stars, in particular the role of stellar winds, internal stability and mixing processes, and binary interaction. New frontiers in this field are a full exploration of the wide range of physics effects that influence (binary) stellar evolution, backed up by moving well out of our own Galaxy to probe populations of massive stars in a wide range of galactic environments. This will both test and constrain stellar models and allow precise constraints on their evolution.

Keywords

Massive stars, star birth, galaxy evolution, hot stars, optical/infra-red spectroscopy, stellar winds, internal mixing, binary interaction

Facilities

Now: VLT, WHT, HST, aLIGO, GAIA, (software) MESA

Future: E-ELT, JWST, BlackGem, transient survey machines

Leading Scientists

 

Prof. dr. L. (Lex) Kaper

Faculty of Science

Anton Pannekoek Institute of Astronomy

Prof. dr. A. (Alex) de Koter

Faculty of Science

Anton Pannekoek Institute of Astronomy

Dr. S.E. (Selma) de Mink

Faculty of Science

Anton Pannekoek Institute of Astronomy

Dr S. (Stephen) Justham

Faculty of Science

Anton Pannekoek Institute of Astronomy