A helium P-Cygni profile in RR Lyrae stars? - INSU - Institut national des sciences de l'Univers Access content directly
Journal Articles Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A Year : 2016

A helium P-Cygni profile in RR Lyrae stars?


Context. Until 2006, helium emission lines had never been observed in RR Lyrae stars. For the first time, a pre-maximum helium emission in 11 RRab stars was observed during rising light (around the pulsation phase 0.92) and the reappearance of helium emission near maximum light (phase 0.0) in one RRab star: RV Oct. This post-maximum emission has been only observed in the He I λ5875.66 (D3) line. Its intensity is very weak, and its profile mimics a P-Cygni profile with the emission peak centered at the laboratory wavelength. The physical explanation for this unexpected line profile has not been proposed yet.
Aims: Using new observations of RR Lyr, we investigate the physical origin of the presence of a P-Cygni profile in the He I λ5875.66 (D3) line.
Methods: High-resolution spectra of RR Lyr, collected with a spectrograph eShel/C14 at the Oukaïmeden Observatory (Morocco) in 2013, were analyzed to understand the origin of the observed P-Cygni profile at D3.
Results: When the shock intensity is moderate, helium emission cannot be produced in the shock wake, and consequently, the two consecutive helium emissions (pre- and post-maximum light emissions) are not observed. This is the most frequent case. When the shock intensity becomes high enough, a pre-maximum He I emission first occurs, which can be followed by the appearance of a P-Cygni profile if the shock intensity is still strong in the high atmosphere. The observation of a P-Cygni profile means that the shock wave is already detached from the photosphere. It is shown that the shock strongly first decelerates between the pulsation phases 0.90 and 1.04 from 130 km s-1 to 60 km s-1, probably before accelerating again to 80 km s-1 near phase 1.30.
Conclusions: The presence of the P-Cygni profile seems to be a natural consequence of the large extension of the expanding atmosphere, which is induced by strong (radiative) shock waves propagating toward the high atmosphere. This kind of P-Cygni profile has already been observed in the Hα line of some RR Lyrae stars and long-period Cepheids.

Based on observations obtained at the Oukaïmeden Observatory in the High Atlas mountains, 78 km south of Marrakech and operated by the Faculté des Sciences Semlalia, Département de Physique, LPHEA, Marrakech, Morocco.

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Dates and versions

insu-03675429 , version 1 (23-05-2022)



D. Gillet, F. L. Sefyani, A. Benhida, N. Fabas, P. Mathias, et al.. A helium P-Cygni profile in RR Lyrae stars?. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, 2016, 587, ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201527287⟩. ⟨insu-03675429⟩
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