Large proper motion of the Thorne-Z ytkow object candidate HV 2112 reveals its likely nature as foreground Galactic S-star

Thomas J. Maccarone, Selma E. de Mink

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Using the Southern Proper Motion (SPM) catalogue, we show that the candidate Thorne-Zytkow object HV 2112 has a proper motion implying a space velocity of about 3000 km s-1if the object is located at the distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). The proper motion is statistically different from that of the SMC at approximately 4σ in SPM, although the result can drop to about 3σ significance by including the UCAC4 data and considering systematic uncertainties in addition to the statistical ones. Assuming the measurement is robust, this proper motion is sufficient to exclude its proposed membership of the SMC and to argue instead that it is likely to be a foreground star in the Milky Way halo. The smaller distance and therefore lower brightness argue against its proposed nature as a Thorne-Zytkow object (the hypothesized star-like object formed when a normal star and a neutron star merge) or a Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) star. Instead we propose a binary scenario where this star is the companion of a former massive AGB star, which polluted the object with via its stellar wind, i.e. a special case of an extrinsic S star. Our new scenario solves two additional problems with the two existing scenarios for its nature as Thorne-Zytkow object or presentday super AGB star. The puzzling high ratio of the strength of calcium to iron absorption lines is unexpected for SMC supergiants, but is fully consistent with the expectations for halo abundances. Secondly, its strong variability can now be explained naturally as a manifestation of the Mira phenomenon.We discuss further observational tests that could distinguish between the foreground and SMC scenarios in advance of the improved proper motion measurements likely to come from Gaia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L1-L5
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: chemically peculiar
  • Stars: individual: HV 2112


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