Massive stars in the hinterland of the young cluster, Westerlund 2

J. E. Drew, A. Herrero, M. Mohr-Smith, M. Monguio, N. J. Wright, T. Kupfer, R. Napiwotzki

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An unsettled question concerning the formation and distribution of massive stars is whether they must be born in massive clusters and, if found in less dense environments, whether they must have migrated there. With the advent of wide-area digital photometric surveys, it is now possible to identify massive stars away from prominent Galactic clusters without bias. In this study we consider 40 candidate OB stars found in the field around the young massive cluster, Westerlund 2, by Mohr-Smith et al.: these are located inside a box of 1.5 × 1.5 deg 2 and are selected on the basis of their extinctions and K magnitudes.We present VLT/X-shooter spectra of two of the hottest O stars, respectively 11 and 22 arcmin from the centre of Westerlund 2. They are confirmed as O4V stars, with stellar masses likely to be in excess of 40 M ·. Their radial velocities relative to the non-binary reference object, MSP 182, in Westerlund 2 are -29.4 ± 1.7 and -14.4 ± 2.2 km s -1, respectively. Using Gaia DR2 proper motions we find that between 8 and 11 early O/WR stars in the studied region (including the two VLT targets, plus WR 20c and WR 20aa) could have been ejected fromWesterlund 2 in the last one million years. This represents an efficiency of massive-star ejection of up to ~ 25 per cent. On sky, the positions of these stars and their proper motions show a near N-S alignment. We discuss the possibility that these results are a consequence of prior sub-cluster merging combining with dynamical ejection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2109–2124
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2018


  • Galaxy: structure
  • Open clusters and associations: individual: Westerlund 2
  • Stars: early-type
  • Surveys


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