AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 13. Atmospheres, Winds, Envelopes, Disks and Planetaries
Display, Monday, May 31, 1999, 9:20am-6:30pm, Southeast Exhibit Hall

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[13.10] A Simple Spectropolarimetric Temperature Diagnostic for Circumstellar Disks

K.S. Bjorkman, J.E. Bjorkman (U. Toledo), K. Wood (SAO)

We describe a straightforward technique for estimating average temperatures of Be star disks from analysis of ultraviolet spectropolarimetry. The technique utilizes the fact that the spectrum of the scattered starlight is sensitive to the circumstellar opacity, and hence temperature, since the signature of the disk material is imprinted on the scattered light spectrum. Analysis of the polarization spectrum thus allows us to disentangle the relative contributions of the star and disk, and thereby obtain an estimate of the average disk opacity as a function of wavelength. Using an LTE line-blanketed model (containing about 106 spectral lines) for the opacity, we determine a theoretical opacity as a function of temperature. By comparing this to the opacity deduced from the spectropolarimetry, we can estimate the average disk temperature. For classical Be stars, the relative strengths of the Fe~II and Fe~III multiplets at around 2400 and 1900Å, respectively, are a sensitive temperature diagnostic, so that the temperature estimate can be made within ±1000K. We demonstrate our technique with analysis of UV spectropolarimetry (from WUPPE) of the classical Be star \zeta~Tau, for which we infer an isothermal disk temperature of 14000K.

This work has been supported in part under NASA grants NAG5-3447 (KSB) and NAG5-3248 (JEB) to the University of Toledo. KW acknowledges support from NASA grant NAG5-6039. Spectropolarimetric observations with WUPPE and HPOL were supported under NASA contract NAS5-26777 with the University of Wisconsin.

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