Determination of the position angle of stellar spin axes
1 Hamburger Sternwarte, Gojenbergsweg 112, 21029 Hamburg, Germany
2 Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, Niels Bohrweg 2, 2333CA Leiden, The Netherlands
Received: 1 November 2013
Accepted: 20 January 2014
Context. Measuring the stellar position angle provides valuable information on binary stellar formation or stellar spin axis evolution.
Aims. We aim to develop a method for determining the absolute stellar position angle using spectro-astrometric analysis of high resolution long-slit spectra. The method has been designed in particular for slowly rotating stars. We investigate its applicability to existing dispersive long-slit spectrographs, identified here by their plate scale, and the size of the resulting stellar sample.
Methods. The stellar rotation induces a tilt in the stellar lines whose angle depends on the stellar position angle and the orientation of the slit. We developed a rotation model to calculate and reproduce the effects of stellar rotation on unreduced high resolution stellar spectra. Then we retrieved the tilt amplitude using a spectro-astrometric extraction of the position of the photocentre of the spectrum. Finally we present two methods for analysing the position spectrum using either direct measurement of the tilt or a cross-correlation analysis.
Results. For stars with large apparent diameter and using a spectrograph with a small plate scale, we show that it is possible to determine the stellar position angle directly within 10° with a signal-to-noise ratio of the order of 6. Under less favourable conditions, i.e. larger plate scale or smaller stellar diameter, the cross-correlation method yields comparable results.
Conclusions. We show that with the currently existing instruments, it is possible to determine the stellar position angle of at least 50 stars precisely, mostly K-type giants with apparent diameter down to 5 milliarcseconds. If we consider errors of around 10° still acceptable, we may include stars with apparent diameter down to 2 mas in the sample that then comprises also some main sequence stars.
Key words: stars: rotation / techniques: spectroscopic
© ESO, 2014