Investigating the A-type stars using Kepler data

Murphy, Simon James (2013) Investigating the A-type stars using Kepler data. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Rotation is a key physical process operating in the A stars. We present a method by which rotation periods might be measured with Fourier transforms of Kepler data, potentially removing the requirement of spectroscopic observations to acquire similar information. Angular rotational velocities reach their maximum at about A5, but slowly rotating A stars are also seen and these tend to be chemically peculiar. For Ap stars, rotational braking is understood, but too few progenitors are observed. A review of a rare class of stars, the ‘sn’ stars, leads us to suggest these may contribute to the ‘missing’ Ap progenitors. For Am stars, we find the tidal braking mechanisms proposed in the literature induce mixing that is incompatible with observed abundance anomalies. At the other end of the scale are the λ Boo stars, whose rotation velocities are above average. The two main theories for the origin of their metal underabundances are discussed and it is suggested that both of them imply the λ Boo stars contain a high fraction of pulsators – a suggestion that is backed up by observations in the literature. Many λ Boo stars also have circumstellar material, suggesting they are potential planet hosts. This, and the use of asteroseismology to study their interiors, are two excellent reasons to adopt them as prime targets for detailed investigation with Kepler.
Pulsation is a common phenomenon in A stars.
The δ Sct stars receive wide attention but the fraction of stars that pulsate at the 50 μmag level is shown to be only 56 per cent. The non-δ Sct stars in the δ Sct instability strip receive far less attention. Some of these stars, without appreciable granulation or stellar winds,
are probably the least variable objects on the HR diagram. It is shown that they have the potential to be among the most peculiar Am stars. Their investigation has led to two important conclusions: (1) the presence of γ Dor pulsation in non-δ Sct stars in the δ Sct instability strip may inhibit the development of the expected Am peculiarities; and (2) chemically normal, non-δ Sct stars in the δ Sct instability strip do exist at the μmag level.

Fourier transforms are invaluable tools in the field of stellar pulsation. The Kepler Space Telescope is providing data of exquisite precision, and thus more detail is seen in the Fourier transform than ever before. Truly understanding the properties of the data is fundamental to their successful utilisation. Through statistical analysis of noise levels in over 20 000 stars, granulation is concluded to be visible in Fourier transforms of stars cooler than 7500 K. Another property investigated is the Nyquist frequency. We found that periodically modulated sampling on board Kepler allows distinction between real pulsation frequencies and Nyquist aliases, even when those real frequencies exceed the Nyquist frequency of the data. This discovery opens up study of many hundreds of stars previously thought to have insurmountable Nyquist ambiguities in their data.

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