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The upper mass limit of stars remains an open question in astrophysics. Here we discuss observations of the most massive stars (greater than 100 solar masses) in the local universe and how the observations fit in with theoretical predictions. In particular, the Large Magellanic Cloud plays host to numerous very massive stars, making it an ideal template to study the roles that environment, metallicity, and multiplicity play in the formation and evolution of the most massive stars. We will discuss the work that is instrumental in laying the groundwork for interpreting future observations by James Webb of starburst regions in the high redshift universe.
The formation of massive stars remains one of the most intriguing questions in astrophysics today. The main limitations result from the difficulty to obtain direct observational constraints on the formation process itself. In this context, the Carina High-contrast Imaging Project of massive Stars (CHIPS) aims to observe all 80+ O stars in the Carina nebula using the new VLT 2nd-generation extreme-AO instrument SPHERE. This instrument offers unprecedented imaging contrast allowing us to detect the faintest companions around massive stars. These novel observational constraints will help to discriminate between the different formation scenarios by comparing their predictions for companion statistics and properties.
We present VLT/MUSE observations of NGC 2070, the dominant ionizing nebula of 30 Doradus in the LMC, plus HST/STIS spectroscopy of its central star cluster R136. Integral Field Spectroscopy (MUSE) and pseudo IFS (STIS) together provides a complete census of all massive stars within the central 30×30 parsec2 of the Tarantula. We discuss the integrated far-UV spectrum of R136, of particular interest for UV studies of young extragalactic star clusters. Strong He iiλ1640 emission at very early ages (1–2 Myr) from very massive stars cannot be reproduced by current population synthesis models, even those incorporating binary evolution and very massive stars. A nebular analysis of the integrated MUSE dataset implies an age of ~4.5 Myr for NGC 2070. Wolf-Rayet features provide alternative age diagnostics, with the primary contribution to the integrated Wolf-Rayet bumps arising from R140 rather than the more numerous H-rich WN stars in R136. Caution should be used when interpreting spatially extended observations of extragalactic star-forming regions.
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