The massive evolved Wolf–Rayet stars sometimes occur in colliding-wind binary systems in which dust plumes are formed as a result of the collision of stellar winds1. These structures are known to encode the parameters of the binary orbit and winds2,3,4. Here we report observations of a previously undiscovered Wolf–Rayet system, 2XMM J160050.7–514245, with a spectroscopically determined wind speed of ~3,400 km s−1. In the thermal infrared, the system is adorned with a prominent ~12″ spiral dust plume, revealed by proper motion studies to be expanding at only ~570 km s−1. As the dust and gas appear to be coeval, these observations are inconsistent with existing models of the dynamics of such colliding-wind systems5,6,7. We propose that this contradiction can be resolved if the system is capable of launching extremely anisotropic winds. Near-critical stellar rotation is known to drive such winds8,9, suggesting that this Wolf–Rayet system may be a Galactic progenitor system for long-duration gamma-ray bursts.
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All data included in this manuscript are now available in the public domain. The VISIR, NACO and SINFONI data are available through the ESO archive. The ATCA data are available through the Australia Telescope Online Archive (ATOA). The IRIS2 data are available through the AAT Data Archive. The X-ray data are available through the XMM-Newton Science Archive (XSA) and Chandra Data Archive.
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J.R.C. thanks B. Gaensler and S. Farrell for conceiving the radio and X-ray survey that led to the discovery of Apep. We also thank N. Smith, K. Valenta and O. de Marco for discussions in the early stages of this study and A. Cheetham for help in constructing the NACO and VISIR observing schedules. We thank R. Lau for reviewing our manuscript and providing insightful comments that lead to important improvements in the manuscript. P.G.T. and B.J.S.P. are grateful for funding from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. This work was performed in part under contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by NASA through the Sagan Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. B.J.S.P. is a NASA Sagan Fellow. P.M.W. is grateful to the Institute for Astronomy for continued hospitality and access to the facilities of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. We acknowledge the Gadigal clan of the Eora nation, the traditional owners of the land on which the University of Sydney is built, and we pay our respects to their knowledge, and their elders past, present and future. We also thank Y. Han and J. Prenzler. This research has made use of the SIMBAD database, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France, and NASA’s Astrophysics Data System. The results presented in this Letter are based on observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere under ESO programmes 097.C-0679(A), 097.C-0679(B), 299.C-5032(A) and 299.C-5032(B). The Australia Telescope Compact Array is part of the Australia Telescope National Facility that is funded by the Commonwealth of Australia for operation as a National Facility managed by CSIRO. The scientific results reported in this article are based in part on data acquired through the Australian Astronomical Observatory, on data obtained from the Chandra Data Archive, and observations obtained with XMM-Newton, an European Space Agency (ESA) science mission with instruments and contributions directly funded by ESA Member States and NASA.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Callingham, J.R., Tuthill, P.G., Pope, B.J.S. et al. Anisotropic winds in a Wolf–Rayet binary identify a potential gamma-ray burst progenitor. Nat Astron 3, 82–87 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-018-0617-7
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