AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 114 Massive Binaries
Poster, Wednesday, 9:20am-6:30pm, January 11, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[114.11] The Strings of Eta Carina: The HST/STIS Spectra and [Ca II]

M.B Melendez (IACS/CUA), T.R Gull (NASA/GSFC), M.A Bautista (IVIC), N.R Badnell (University of Strathclyde, UK)

Long linear, filamentary ejecta, known as “strings”, are found to move at very high velocity external to the Homunculus, the circumstellar hourglass-shaped ejecta surrounding Eta Carinae. The origin of the strings is a puzzle. Determining if their elemental abundances are similar to other ejecta linked with the brightening events of the 1840’s and the 1890’s, would give insight as to whether these ejecta originated in the outer atmosphere of the erupting star, or possibly much deeper. As an example, the Weigelt Blobs, associated with the 1890’s event, have N at 10X solar and C, O at 0.01X solar abundance, along with He/H significantly enhanced. This abundance pattern is evidence for extreme CNO-processing. Similarly, the Strontium Filament has Ti/Ni at 100X solar, presumably due to the lack of oxygen to form Ti-oxide precipitates onto dust grains.

We have obtained 2-D spectra with the HST/STIS of the Strontium Filament and a portion of a string. These deep spectral exposures, at moderate dispersion, span much of the near red spectral region from 5000 to 9000A. We have identified twelve emission lines in these spectra with proper velocities and spatial structure of this string and obtained line ratios for [Ca II] (7293/7325A) and [Fe II] (7157/8619A) which are useful for determining physical conditions in this nebulosity. In an attempt to use the [Ca II] ratio to determine the physical parameters, and ultimately the abundances in the strings, we have constructed a statistical equilibrium model for Ca II, including radiative and collisional rates. These results incorporate our newly calculated atomic data for levels n = 3,4,5 and 6 configurations of Ca II. The aim is to compute the [Ca II] line ratios and use them as a diagnostic of the physical parameters. Using the [Fe II] ratio we find that for Te=10,000 K, the electron density is Ne~106 cm-3. We plan to use the [Ca II] ratio to confirm this result. Then, we will extend the use of this multilevel model Ca II atom to study the physical conditions of the Strontium filament where eight lines of Ca II, both allowed and forbidden, had been identified. With the physical conditions determined, we will be able to derive reliable estimates for the gas phase abundances in the strings.

This study was supported by STScI observations and STIS GTO funds.

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