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Context. Westerlund I is the richest young cluster currently known in our Galaxy, making it one of the most massive clusters for which we can resolve the individual stars even in the crowded centre. This makes it an ideal target to assess whether massive clusters formed currently will remain bound or will disperse and contribute significantly to the stellar field population. Aims. Here we report a measurement of the radial velocity dispersion of Westerlund I to explore whether the cluster is currently in virial equilibrium, if it is in the process of collapse or if it is expanding and dispersing into the field. Methods. We obtained MIKE/Magellan high resolution optical spectra of 22 post main-sequence stars jn Westerlund I for 2 or 3 epochs with a maximum baseline of about one year. Radial velocities variations between these spectra have been measured through cross correlation. Results. We calculate the velocity dispersion from the cross correlation of five yellow hypergiants and one luminous blue variable, that show little radial velocity variations between epochs and have many spectral features in common. After taking into account the effect of small number statistics and undetected binaries, we estimate the velocity dispersion for the massive stars in Westerlund I to be 2.1 (+3.3, -2.1) km s-1. For several different assumptions concerning possible mass segregation and the elongation of the cluster, we find that Westerlund I is subvirial at the 90% confidence level. Conclusions. We can rule out that the cluster is significantly supervirial at the 97% confidence level, indicating that Westerlund I is currently bound. This implies that Westerlund I has survived past the point where any gas expulsion has taken place and is expected to survive for billions of years.

Original publication

DOI

10.1051/0004-6361/201117722

Type

Journal article

Publication Date

19/12/2011

Keywords

astro-ph.SR, astro-ph.SR