AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 86 Ground Based Optical Interferometry
Special Session, Tuesday, 10:00-11:30am, January 10, 2006, Delaware A

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[86.05] Exploring the Circumstellar Regions of Be Stars with the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer

C. Tycner (USNO), NPOI Collaboration

Be stars are defined as non-supergiant B-type stars that have been observed with the H\alpha line in emission. Although the H\alpha line is not the only feature that can be observed in emission, it is typically the most prominent feature observed. The line emission observed in a Be star is formed in a disk-like circumstellar region that is thought to be formed by some type of mass-loss mechanism. In the last decade there were numerous theoretical models published in the literature that attempt to explain the origin, structure, and the commonly observed variability of the circumstellar disks of Be stars. However, because interferometric observations that are capable of spatially resolving the circumstellar disks of Be stars on routine basis are only now becoming available, such models have not had the chance to be fully tested by the observational data. We describe how the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer is being utilized in the study of the circumstellar regions of Be stars. Because the NPOI is sensitive to the H\alpha line and it operates at baselines of up to 80 m, the instrument is uniquely optimized for studies of Be stars. We demonstrate how the current baseline configurations allow us to obtain some of the highest spatial resolution measurements of the H\alpha emitting regions of Be stars and how these type of observations can be used to constrain the different models for the intensity distributions. Furthermore, because NPOI has multi-spectral capabilities we show how this is used to detect the Be star binaries and we discuss the implications to studies of the disk interaction and truncation by the secondary.

This work was performed in part under contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by NASA through the Michelson Fellowship Program. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology.

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