Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Harold A. McAlister


The self-calibration method, a new interferometric technique using measurements in the K′-band (2.1 μm) at the CHARA Array, has been used to derive orbits for several spectroscopic binaries. This method uses the wide component of a hierarchical triple system to calibrate visibility measurements of the triple’s close binary system through quasi-simultaneous observations of the separated fringe packets of both. Prior to the onset of this project, the reduction of separated fringe packet data had never included the goal of deriving visibilities for both fringe packets, so new data reduction software has been written. Visibilities obtained with separated fringe packet data for the target close binary are run through both Monte Carlo simulations and grid search programs in order to determine the best-fit orbital elements of the close binary.

Several targets, with spectral types ranging from O to G and luminosity classes
from III to V, have been observed in this fashion, and orbits have been derived for the close binaries of eight targets (V819 Her B, Kappa Peg B, Eta Vir A, Eta Ori Aab, 55 UMa A, 13 Ceti A, CHARA 96 Ab, HD 129132 Aa). The derivation of an orbit has allowed for the calculation of the masses of the components in these systems. The magnitude differences between the components can also be derived, provided that the components of the close binary have a magnitude difference of Delta K < 2.5 (CHARA’s limit). Derivation of the orbit also allows for the calculation of the mutual inclination (Phi), which is the angle between the planes of the wide and close orbits. According to data from the Multiple Star Catalog, there are 34 triple systems other than the 8 studied here for which the wide and close systems both have visual orbits. Early formation scenarios for multiple systems predict coplanarity (Phi < 15 degrees), but only 6 of these 42 systems are possibly coplanar. This tendency against coplanarity may suggest that the capture method of multiple system formation is more important than previously believed.