We have studied the optical spectra of a sample of 31 O- and early B-type stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud, 21 of which are associated with the young massive cluster NGC 346. Stellar parameters are determined using an automated fitting method (Mokiem et al. 2005, A&A, 441, 711), which combines the stellar atmosphere code FASTWIND (Puls et al. 2005, A&A, 435, 669) with the genetic algorithm based optimisation routine PIKAIA (Charbonneau 1995, ApJS, 101, 309). Comparison with predictions of stellar evolution that account for stellar rotation does not result in a unique age, though most stars are best represented by an age of 1-3 Myr. The automated method allows for a detailed determination of the projected rotational velocities. The present day v(r) sin i distribution of the 21 dwarf stars in our sample is consistent with an underlying rotational velocity (v(r)) distribution that can be characterised by a mean velocity of about 160-190 km s(-1) and an effective half width of 100-150 km s(-1). The vr distribution must include a small percentage of slowly rotating stars. If predictions of the time evolution of the equatorial velocity for massive stars within the environment of the SMC are correct (Maeder & Meynet 2001, A&A, 373, 555), the young age of the cluster implies that this underlying distribution is representative for the initial rotational velocity distribution. The location in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of the stars showing helium enrichment is in qualitative agreement with evolutionary tracks accounting for rotation, but not for those ignoring vr. The mass loss rates of the SMC objects having luminosities of log L-star/L-circle dot greater than or similar to 5.4 are in excellent agreement with predictions by Vink et al. (2001, A&A, 369, 574). However, for lower luminosity stars the winds are too weak to determine. M accurately from the optical spectrum. Three targets were classified as Vz stars, two of which are located close to the theoretical zero-age main sequence. Three lower luminosity targets that were not classified as Vz stars are also found to lie near the ZAMS. We argue that this is related to a temperature effect inhibiting cooler from displaying the spectral features required for the Vz luminosity class.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Space and Planetary Science