Publ. Astron. Soc. Pac., 128, part no 6, 4201-64201 (2016)
Exocomet circumstellar Fe i absorption in the beta Pictoris gas disk.
WELSH B.Y. and MONTGOMERY S.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present an archival study of 27 circumstellar Fe i (λ3860 Å) and Ca ii (λ3933 Å) absorption spectra of the β Pictoris system recorded over the 2003-2014 timeframe. We have detected several transient absorption events at velocities red-shifted by >+20 km s–1 from the main central absorption line profiles of both Fe i and Ca ii. Such events can be attributed to the presence of kilometer-sized infalling evaporating bodies (i.e., exocomets) on their grazing approach to the central star. The majority of the transient absorption events detected in the Fe i profiles occur at velocities in the +35 to +50 km s–1 range. This is consistent with that found for Ca ii gas that has been sublimated from the "D" family of β Pictoris exocomets recently found by Kiefer et al. These spectra also reveal that the strength of the main component of the Fe i absorption line at Vhelio ∼ +21 km s–1 has weakened by ∼30% since 2011. Since neutrals, when ionized, are the main source of the ion-braking mechanism of Brandeker for circumstellar gas in the β Pictoris system, then this may have some measurable effect on the size and/or location of the main circumstellar gas disk. Finally we note that we have failed to detect any circumstellar Fe i absorption in our previously reported spectra of similar gas disks surrounding 28 young A-type stars. Thus, it would appear that the β Pictoris is anomalous with regards to circumstellar Fe i absorption.