An indication for the binarity of P Cygni from its 17th century eruption

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I show that the 17th century eruption of the massive luminous blue variable (LBV) star P Cygni can be explained by mass transfer to a B-type binary companion in an eccentric orbit, under the assumption that the luminosity peaks occurred close to periastron passages. The mass was accreted by the companion and liberated gravitational energy, part of which went to an increase in luminosity. I find that mass transfer of ∼0.1 M to a B-type binary companion of ∼3-6 M can account for the energy of the eruption, and for the decreasing time interval between the observed peaks in the visual light curve of the eruption. Such a companion is predicted to have an orbital period of ∼7 years, and its Doppler shift should be possible to detect with high-resolution spectroscopic observations. Explaining the eruption of P Cygni by mass transfer further supports the conjecture that all major LBV eruptions are triggered by interaction of an unstable LBV with a stellar companion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1924-1929
Number of pages6
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaries: general
  • Stars: individual: P Cyg
  • Stars: mass-loss
  • Stars: variables: general
  • Stars: winds, outflows


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