Date of Award

8-12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Russel J. White

Second Advisor

Fabien Baron

Third Advisor

Douglas Gies

Fourth Advisor

Harold McAlister

Fifth Advisor

Inseok Song

Abstract

Stars with spectral type `A' (also called A-type stars or just A-stars) are bright intermediate mass stars (∼1.5-2.5 M) that make up ∼1% of stars within 25 parsecs, and ∼20% of the brightest stars in the night sky (V < 3 mag). Most A-stars rotate rapidly with rotational velocities that range from ∼100 to ∼200 km/s in most cases, but can exceed 300 km/s. Such rapid rotation not only causes a star's observed properties (flux, temperature, and radius) to be inclination dependent, but also changes how the star evolves both chemically and structurally.

Herein we conduct an interferometric survey of nearby A-stars using the CHARA Array. The long baselines of this optical/infrared interferometer enable us to measure the angular sizes of stars as small as ∼0.2 mas, and directly map the oblate shapes of rotationally distorted stars. This in turn allows us to more accurately determine their photospheric properties and estimate their ages and masses by comparing to evolution models that account for rotation. To facilitate this survey, we construct a census of all 232 A-stars within 50 parsecs (the 50PASS) and from that construct a sample of A-stars (the OSESNA) that lend themselves to interferometric observations with the CHARA Array (i.e., are in the northern hemisphere and have no known, bright, and nearby companions - 108 stars in total). The observations are interpreted by constructing a physical model of a rapidly rotating star from which we generate both photometric and interferometric model observations for comparison with actual observations. The stellar properties of the best fitting model are then compared to the MESA evolution models to estimate an age and a mass.

To validate this physical model and the adopted MESA code, we first determine the ages of seven members of the Ursa Major moving group, which are expected to be coeval. With the exception of one star with questionable membership, these stars show a 1-σ spread in age of 56 Myr. This agreement validates our technique and provides a new estimate of the age for the group of 414 ± 23 Myr. We apply this validated technique to the directly-imaged `planet' host star κ Andromedae and determine its age to be 47+27-40 Myr. This implies the companion has a mass of 22+8-9 MJup and is thus more likely a brown dwarf than a giant planet. In total, we present new age and mass estimates for 55 nearby A-stars including six members of the Hyades open cluster, five stars with the λ Boötis chemical peculiarity, nine stars which have an infrared excess, possibly from a debris disk, and nine pulsating stars.

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