EDP Sciences
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Volume 383, Number 2, February IV 2002
Page(s) 580 - 590
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011787

A&A 383, 580-590 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011787

On the polarimetric variability of bright O-type stars

D. Clarke1, D. McDavid2, R. A. Smith1 and H. F. Henrichs3

1  University Observatory, Acre Road, Glasgow, G20 0TL, Scotland, UK
2  Limber Observatory, PO Box 63599, Pipe Creek, Texas, 78063-3599, USA
    e-mail: mcdavid@limber.org
3  Astronomical Institute "Anton Pannekoek", University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 403, 1098SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    e-mail: huib@astro.uva.nl

(Received 16 January 2001 / Accepted 13 December 2001 )

Polarimetric data associated with multi-parameter observational campaigns of selected bright O-type stars and their variable winds, are analysed in relation to the outcomes of the UV and optical spectroscopic studies. For the stars $\xi\,$Per and $\lambda\,$Cep, individual measurement uncertainties are $\Delta
p\sim\pm0.0002$ with nightly mean uncertainties of $\Delta
p\sim\pm0.00007$ . Although variability is apparent on a night-to-night basis, with differences in $\delta p \sim 0.0002$, no correlations are found between these and the periodic behaviours associated with the stellar Si IV and H $\alpha$ lines. Similar polarimetric variability is seen in the data for the standard star $\phi\,$Cas used as a reference in this observing campaign. It is suggested that all of these low level fluctuations are not intrinsic to the stars but are engendered by structured instrumental polarization in the diffraction pattern and depolarization effects in combination with inconsistent target acquisition and with variable seeing conditions in the Earth's atmosphere. Reassessment of older data for $\lambda\,$Cep from Hayes (1978) also supports this thesis.

Key words: polarization -- stars: early-type -- stars: individual: $\xi$ Per -- stars: individual: $\lambda$ Cep -- stars: individual: 68 Cyg

Offprint request: D. Clarke, d.clarke@astro.gla.ac.uk

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