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Context. A key science goal of the Gaia-ESO survey (GES) at the VLT is to use the kinematics of low-mass stars in young clusters and star forming regions to probe their dynamical histories and how they populate the field as they become unbound. The clustering of low-mass stars around the massive Wolf-Rayet binary system γ 2 Velorum was one of the first GES targets. Aims. We empirically determine the radial velocity precision of GES data, construct a kinematically unbiased sample of cluster members and characterise their dynamical state. Methods. Targets were selected from colour.magnitude diagrams and intermediate resolution spectroscopy was used to derive radial velocities and assess membership from the strength of the Li i 6708 A line. The radial velocity distribution was analysed using a maximum likelihood technique that accounts for unresolved binaries. Results. The GES radial velocity precision is about 0.25 km s -1 and sufficient to resolve velocity structure in the low-mass population around γ 2 Vel. The structure is well fitted by two kinematic components with roughly equal numbers of stars; the first has an intrinsic dispersion of 0.34 ± 0.16 km s -1 , consistent with virial equilibrium. The second has a broader dispersion of 1.60 ± 0.37 km s -1 and is offset from the first by ∼2 kms -1 . The first population is older by 1-2 Myr based on a greater level of Li depletion seen among its M-type stars and is probably more centrally concentrated around γ2 Vel. Conclusions. We consider several formation scenarios, concluding that the two kinematic components are a bound remnant of the original, denser cluster that formed γ 2 Vel, and a dispersed population from the wider Vela OB2 association, of which γ 2 Vel is the most massive member. The apparent youth of γ 2 Vel compared to the older (≥10 Myr) low-mass population surrounding it suggests a scenario in which the massive binary formed in a clustered environment after the formation of the bulk of the low-mass stars. © ESO 2014.

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Journal article


Astronomy and Astrophysics

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