Variability of Be Stars in Southern Open Clusters

M. Virginia McSwain, Wenjin Huang, & Douglas R. Gies

Lehigh University, University of Washington, CHARA/Georgia State University

We recently discovered a large number of highly active Be stars in the open cluster NGC 3766, making it an excellent location to study the formation mechanism of Be star disks. To explore whether similar disk appearances and/or disappearances are common among the Be stars in other open clusters, we present here multiple epochs of H-alpha spectroscopy for 296 stars in eight open clusters. We identify 12 new transient Be stars and confirm 17 additional Be stars with relatively stable disks. By comparing the H-alpha equivalent widths to the photometric y--H-alpha colors, we present a method to estimate the strength of the H-alpha emission when spectroscopy is not available. For a subset of 128 stars in four open clusters, we also use blue optical spectroscopy and available Stromgren photometry to measure their projected rotational velocities, effective temperatures, and polar surface gravities. We combine our Be star detections from these four clusters to investigate physical differences between the transient Be stars, stable Be stars, and normal B-type stars with no line emission. Both types of Be stars are faster rotating populations than normal B-type stars, and we find no significant physical differences between the transient and stable Be stars in our sample.

Reference: McSwain et al. 2009, ApJ, 700, 1216
Status: Manuscript has been accepted