Early-type stars observed in the ESO UVES Paranal Observatory Project - III. Sub-parsec and au-scale structure in the interstellar medium

Smoker, J. V.; Bagnulo, S.; Cabanac, R.; Keenan, F. P.; Fossati, L.; Ledoux, C.; Jehin, E. and Melo, C. (2011). Early-type stars observed in the ESO UVES Paranal Observatory Project - III. Sub-parsec and au-scale structure in the interstellar medium. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 414(1) pp. 59–75.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.17987.x


UVES interstellar observations from the Paranal Observatory Project are presented for early-type stars located in the line of sight to the nearby open clusters IC 2391 (Omni Vel) and NGC 6475 (M7), with spectroscopic resolution R˜ 80 000 and signal-to-noise ratios in the Ti II (3383 Å), Ca II K, CH+ (4232 Å), Na I D and K I (7698 Å) lines of several hundred. The sightlines are a mixture of cluster and non-cluster objects. A total of 22 early-type stars (A and B type) are present in our sample towards IC 2391, with 21 towards NGC 6475/M7, and enable us to probe for differences in column density on scales from ˜0.07 to 7.3 and ˜0.05 to 4.9 pc in the respective clusters. Additionally, towards Praesepe the Na I D interstellar variation only is probed towards 13 sightlines and transverse scales of ˜0.16-10.7 pc at R= 70 000. Towards IC 2391 variations are found in Ti II, Ca II K and Na I D column density in different sightlines of up to 0.7, 1.0 and 1.8 dex (excluding one star), respectively. This kind of variability correlates well with the Hipparcos parallax of the objects, and probes structure within the Local Bubble. For cluster-only objects the variations are 0.3, 0.3 and 0.5 dex, respectively. For the field of view towards NGC 6475 the corresponding maximum variations are somewhat smaller, being 0.5, 0.3, 0.8 and 1.0 dex for Ti II, Ca II K, Na I and K I, respectively, for all objects and 0.4, 0.2, 0.6 and 0.7 dex for the cluster-only objects. These are uncorrelated with parallax, and again demonstrate that Ca II K tends to be more smoothly distributed than Na I D. A few likely cluster sightlines show evidence for CH+ and variations in this molecular species of a factor of 10 in equivalent width over sub-pc scales. Towards Praesepe variation in interstellar Na I D is small, being a maximum of only ˜0.4 dex (including measurement errors), but with fewer sightlines studied. Overall, the scatter in the data is similar for the singly ionized species Ti II and Ca II, lending more support to the hypothesis that these two species sample similar parts of the interstellar medium (ISM). This also appears to be the case for the neutral species Na I D and K I in the one cluster studied. Finally, multiple-epoch observations from a variety of archive sources are used to search for astronomical unit (au) scale structure in the ISM towards 46 sightlines. There are tentative indications of structure on scales of tens to thousands of au for three sightlines. Future observations will confirm the veracity or otherwise of the time-variable components and others presented.

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