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Astron. Astrophys. 348, 831-842 (1999)

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3. Observed properties

3.1. [FORMULA] Capricorni

[FORMULA] Cap (HD 205 637, HR 8260) is a well-known shell star with a considerable record of long-term variations, cf., e.g., Porri & Stalio (1988) who were also the first to report central quasi-emission features in HeI [FORMULA] 4471, 5876, 6678, and MgII [FORMULA] 4481 in observations obtained in Aug./Sept., 1986. H[FORMULA] exhibited emission at a peak height of 1.3 in units of the local continuum, while the absorption core reached a normalized flux of only 0.45.

HEROS spectra from 1995 show similar structures in these lines, except that the CQE was hardly visible in MgII [FORMULA] 4481. The features are seen in most, but not all HeI lines. CQE's were not at all detected in HeI [FORMULA] 3927, 4009, 4121, 4144, 5047, and hardly in HeI [FORMULA] 4388. But in HeI [FORMULA] 3820, 4026, 4471, 4713, 4921, 5015, 5876, 6678 and 7065 they were well visible. (cf. Figs. 1 and 2 for examples). While the lines without CQE exhibit purely rotationally broadened profiles, those with CQE display some unmistakable circumstellar contribution, especially in the line wings. Pure shell lines were found in FeIII [FORMULA] 5127, 5156, SiII [FORMULA] 6347, 6371 OI [FORMULA] 8446, and weakly also in FeII . Shell absorption is as well seen in CaII and NaI lines, in addition to the sharp interstellar absorption cores. No photospheric wings were apparent in Paschen lines. The SiII [FORMULA] 6347, 6371 absorptions showed a remarkable profile that is described best as a broad, shallow trough with flat bottom (Fig. 1, right panel). No CQE could be detected in typical bona fide photospheric lines such as SiIII [FORMULA] 4553, CII [FORMULA] 4267, or SII [FORMULA] 5454.

[FIGURE] Fig. 1. Different spectral regions of [FORMULA] Cap (upper panels ) and [FORMULA] Cen (lower panels ) in several observing seasons as indicated on the right side. Average profiles are shown for HEROS data (cf. Table 1), whereas the uppermost profiles are single spectra taken with FEROS at the ESO 1.52-m telescope. Note the presence of CQE's, which appear as small central reversals especially in HeI [FORMULA] 4026, 4471 and partially also in the lines of MgII , FeII and SiII . Profiles of additional lines are shown in Fig. 2

[FIGURE] Fig. 2. Same as Fig. 1 except for different spectral regions

In 1996, the strength of the H[FORMULA] emission and the shell signature but also the CQE's were weaker. The remnants of these features, seen best in HeI [FORMULA] 4471, are now shallow and broadened. However, the MgII [FORMULA] 4481 line seems to have developed the CQE only now, although it is very weak and extremely broad compared to HeI . In FeIII [FORMULA] 5127, 5156, and to some small extent also in SiII [FORMULA] 6347, broad line emission has developped. Photospheric wings now do appear in the Paschen lines.

By 1998 September, the spectrum had changed rather drastically. While FeIII absorption was nearly absent, shell lines of FeII had become strong. Other probable shell lines (cf. above) also returned, but the CQE had vanished completely, so that all HeI lines showed purely rotationally broadened profiles. The shell absorption of H[FORMULA] was weaker, while the photospheric absorption wings were filled up by line emission.

Only two months later, on November 20, the absorption core of H[FORMULA] was again deep. As the shell absorption lines strengthened, the CQE's not only returned in the HeI and MgII [FORMULA] 4481 lines, but for the first time in [FORMULA] Cap they were also seen in purely circumstellar lines such as SiII and FeII lines. Quantitative data are given in Table 2.


Table 2. Parameters of CQE's in different stars and lines observed with HEROS and FEROS . Strength denotes the CQE peak height above the lowest point of the parent absorption profile in units of the local continuum. The peak heights are accurate to about 0.2 percentage points, the FWHM's to about 5 km/s. The error estimate of the radial velocities (RV) is about 10 % of the respective FWHM. Note that in [FORMULA] Car, the sharp absorption core of FeII [FORMULA] 5169 was measured that replaces the CQE's in FeII profiles. The RV of the broad absorption was derived by measuring the wings at about half-depth of the profile

HEROS and FEROS data, together with unpublished spectra with a resolving power of 70 000 or higher obtained with the CAT/CES on La Silla in July, 1985 and November, 1994 illustrate the long-term evolution of the CQE in HeI [FORMULA] 6678 over many years. They are shown in Fig. 3. In this line the CQE's can exceed 4 % of the continuum flux and their strength is variable on a time scale of months to years. Both the visual inspection of the profiles and our quantitative measurements show a clear correlation between their strength and the depth or FWHM of the parent absorption profile. The CQE is stronger when the absorption line is deeper and narrower, i.e. when the envelope's contribution to the absorption is larger. A similar trend can be seen also in MgII and HeI in both [FORMULA] Cap and [FORMULA] Cen.

[FIGURE] Fig. 3. Appearance of the CQE and the parent profile of HeI [FORMULA] 6678 in [FORMULA] Cap in different seasons. Profiles are arranged by decreasing depth and increasing FWHM of the absorption (from top to bottom). Note that this corresponds to decreasing strength of the CQE. The spectra from 1995 until Aug.-Oct., 1998 were obtained with HEROS , the 1998 November one with FEROS (the blue side is not plotted because it is strongly affected by bad columns of the CCD), and the others with the CAT/CES. The vertical dotted line shows the mean position of the CQE's

Three CAT/CES profiles from 1983 June of HeI [FORMULA] 4471 also exhibit CQE's (in MgII [FORMULA] 4481 even the main absorption is barely recognizable).

The decrease in the FeIII /FeII ratio suggests a change in temperature (Fig. 1). If the concommittant increase of the H[FORMULA] line emission (Fig. 2) is due to a replenishment of the disk, the disk would be cooler when denser. This could be plausible but can be concluded with some justification only if a more detailed modelling has ascertained that the lines due to the two ionization stages do not originate from different locations at different times.

[FORMULA] Cap is believed to be a binary with an estimated period of about 0.3 years (Abt & Cardona, 1984). The combination of all 72 spectra spanning 3.5 years supports this and indicates a period of roughly 95 days. The estimated peak-to-peak amplitude in radial velocity as derived from the CQE's is about 20 km/s.

A meaningful determination of the orbital parameters, however, is complicated by the shell-type line profile variability on similar time scales and is beyond the scope of this paper. Because of the underlying long-term variability, all measured quantities provided in Table 2 therefore refer only to a single high-quality FEROS spectrum obtained on Nov. 20, 1998.

3.2. [FORMULA] Centauri

The first CQE in [FORMULA] Cen (HD 127 972, HR 5440) was reported by Baade (1983). However, as in the case of o And (see below), they were detected in a Balmer rather than in a metallic line. Furthermore, rapid variations seemed to be present. Sorting the published data with the photometric period of 0.6424 day (e.g., tefl et al. 1995), however, does not contradict the hypothesis of an intrinsically stable feature merely reflecting the underlying photospheric variability.

In the present data, [FORMULA] Cen is almost a twin of [FORMULA] Cap (cf. Figs. 1 and 2). Before 1999, the CQE's were best visible in HeI lines, in which also some shell contribution can be recognized in the line wings. The strongest shell line is FeIII [FORMULA] 5156 in which also weak genuine emission is detected. Measurements of the temporal development of the CQE in HeI [FORMULA] 4471 are compiled in Table 3.


Table 3. The temporal evolution of the CQE of HeI [FORMULA] 4471 in [FORMULA] Cen

In January, 1999 the H[FORMULA] emission had become stronger. Similarly to [FORMULA] Cap, lowly ionized shell lines of FeII and SiII had developed (see also Table 2).

3.3. o Andromedae

o And (HD 217 675 HR 8762) was the first star for which CQE was reported (Doazan 1976) but at the time taken to be genuine emission. These features were seen in Balmer lines and rapidly variable. As in the case of [FORMULA] Cen, it is not clear if the structures were intrinsically variable or reflected underlying stellar variability. No subsequent study reported such features. However, shortly after Doazan's observations of CQE's, the star entered into a new shell phase (Fracassini et al. 1977).

CQE's can be recognized again in the spectra taken in 1998. But this time they are present in shell rather than in Balmer lines (see Fig. 4, right panel). The weak H[FORMULA] emission with a peak height of about 1.1 looks similar to that in [FORMULA] Cap or [FORMULA] Cen (Fig. 2). The absorption core drops as low as 0.2 of the ambient continuum. Lines of the Balmer series can be detected up to H26 at 3666 Å in the high-quality, averaged spectrum.

[FIGURE] Fig. 4. Selected profiles of lines with circumstellar contributions in [FORMULA] Car (left, 1996 data) and o And (right, 1998 data). The dotted vertical lines indicate the mean radial velocity of the CQE's. Note the good alignment of all CQE's even though the parent absorption profile varies rather significantly

As part of a long term-monitoring programme at Ritter Observatory, K. Bjorkman (1999, private comm.) observed o And in fall 1997 and fall 1998 and found both narrow shell absorption and emission peaks. In late 1998, the emission strengthened somewhat. Peters (1999, private comm.) concluded from observations of the H[FORMULA] and H[FORMULA] regions that "a weak shell was present in mid-January" (1999). Noteworthy is also a recent report by McDavid (1999), who within only a few months of the present observations measured the highest linear polarization ever published for this star.

Previous shell episodes are known to have started in 1966, 1975, 1983, 1988 (cf. Sareyan et al. 1992), and 1994 (Harmanec 1994). For the latter event it is also known that it was accompanied by a similar rise in polarization (McDavid 1995) as observed recently. Therefore, it seems possible that a new shell phase, or an enhancement of shell characteristics, started only a short while ago. Since shell phases of o And typically last a few years, observations in the next observing season should easily confirm or reject this hypothesis.

o And is the star in which a further typical property of CQE's can be seen best. Although the absorption component of the various parent lines may have different radial velocities, the CQE's always occur at one radial velocity common to all CQE's (see Fig. 4 and Table 2).

The multiplicity of o And (Hill et al. 1988) has most probably negligible physical influence on the phenomenon. The 33-d period only concerns companion B which orbits the Be star and another, much fainter companion a, in about 30 years at least. The period of component a is still of the order of 4 years. Therefore, averaging spectra over some weeks to months does not grossly affect any conclusion about the CQE's of the Be star. Only for measurements with very high precision do the values of the derived parameters depend on the disentangling of the component spectra and would require a dedicated study.

3.4. 4 Herculis

The first report on CQE's in the shell star 4 Her (HD 142 926, HR 5938) was given by Koubský et al. (1993), a more detailed description by Koubský et al. (1997). Being visible in many shell lines, these features are present at the beginning of new shell phases, when the star is faintest. They vanish when the H[FORMULA] emission strengthens. It should also be noted that the shell lines are reported to be unusually broad. Compared to classical shell stars such as [FORMULA] Tau or EW Lac (cf. Sect. 3.7), this is true of all CQE stars.

Koubský et al. (1997) do not report any indication for a relation between the 46 day period of the probable companion and the appearance of the CQE.

In the two HEROS spectra of 1998 August, CQE's are not detectable. However, it can hardly be judged if this is so as a result of the limited [FORMULA] or because they have really disappeared (cf. Fig. 6).

3.5. [FORMULA] Carinae

Central quasi-emission peaks in [FORMULA] Car (HD 89 080, HR 4037) were first found by Baade (1989) in his search for line profile-variability in late-type B stars.

The H[FORMULA] profile was stable during the monitoring from 1995 to 1999. Of the stars investigated here, [FORMULA] Car has the strongest emission with an H[FORMULA] peak height of 2 in units of the local continuum. The central absorption is rather deep, but the minimum flux is still above the continuum. CQE's are seen in partly photospheric lines like MgII [FORMULA] 4481, being broadest there, as well as in shell lines of TiII and CrII . However, in FeII , the most typical shell lines of Be stars, only deep pure absorption cores are visible (Fig. 4, left panel). Strengths and widths of the CQE's as observed with FEROS are given in Table 2.

3.6. [FORMULA] Puppis

[FORMULA] Pup (HD 47 670, HR 2451) was also one of the stars investigated by Baade (1989). It exhibited a CQE quite clearly in MgII [FORMULA] 4481. No indication of circumstellar matter was, however, found in previous studies.

The HEROS and FEROS observations do not show any trace of CQE's. In comparison to the earlier spectra of Baade, it is, however, not excluded that the MgII [FORMULA] 4481 line was deeper during his observations due to additional shell absorption, similar to, e.g., the one in [FORMULA] Cap and [FORMULA] Cen (cf. Fig. 1) or to HeI [FORMULA] 6678 in [FORMULA] Cap (Fig. 3). But this could also be the result of imperfect normalization. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence that this star is a not previously recognized bright Be star. The variations of the H[FORMULA] profile observed from 1995 to 1999 clearly point towards a variable amount of circumstellar matter (cf. Fig. 5); this indication is weaker but still significant in H[FORMULA].

[FIGURE] Fig. 5. H[FORMULA] (upper panel ) and H[FORMULA] (lower panel ) profiles of [FORMULA] Pup in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1999 (from bottom to top ). In addition to numerous narrow telluric absorption lines, the FEROS H[FORMULA] profile at the top is affected by bad CCD columns. The temporal evolution clearly shows the presence of varying amounts of circumstellar matter

[FIGURE] Fig. 6. Typical shell lines of late-type Be stars without CQE's (upper panel ) and of stars with CQE's (lower panel ). The tendency towards broader and shallower absorption in stars with CQE's is well visible

3.7. Comparison with other well-known shell stars

In order to permit a comparison with other, partly more intensively studied shell stars to be made, a few additional spectra were obtained during the Aug.-Oct., 1998 observations from Calar Alto. The spectra of EW Lac and [FORMULA] Tau show Balmer line profiles with nearly black absorption cores. The FeII [FORMULA] 5169 absorptions reached down to only 0.5 of the local continuum and were very narrow but still resolved. Compared to the CQE stars, the other shell lines were also more strongly developed (cf. Fig. 6)

In contrast, [FORMULA] Gem hardly shows any shell signature except in the Balmer lines and the lines of FeII multiplet 42 ([FORMULA]4925, 5018, 5169). These FeII lines are too narrow to be resolved. The shell lines of the CQE stars are broader, incl. the FeII [FORMULA] 5169 absorptions of EW Lac and [FORMULA] Tau (cf. Fig. 6, left panel)

The comparison with the CQE stars reveals that, although CQE's are intimately linked to shell absorptions, CQE's are not detected in all shell stars. On the one hand, this is probably due to temporal variability as not even the known CQE stars display CQE's at all times. On the other hand, CQE's, if present, could not by the current observations of EW Lac, [FORMULA] Tau, and [FORMULA] Gem have been detected because their shell lines were not resolved.

Unpublished observations (by DB) at a resolving power of 100 000 and a [FORMULA] of better than 300 with the CAT/CES on La Silla of various small wavelength regions in 48 Lib (1982 July and 1983 June) do not show traces of CQE's in the shell lines contained in these spectra, nor do unpublished HEROS spectra. Similar observations of the same star in 1989 June by Floquet et al. (1996) and in 1995 by Hanuschik & Vrancken (1996) are consistent with this finding.

By contrast, the FeII profiles for some of the stars observed in 1990 February by Ballereau et al. (1995) do include indications of a marginal CQE. Therefore, a small survey of very narrow-lined shell stars at very high spectral resolution would still be worthwhile.

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Online publication: August 13, 199