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M. J. Creech-Eakman (JPL/Caltech), R. R. Thompson (JPL/Univ. of Wyoming), G. T. van Belle (JPL)
We have undertaken a program with the Palomar Testbed Interferometer (PTI) to measure the angular size variations, with respect to pulsational phase, of a group of about 20 mainly O-rich Mira variables. While previous groups have attempted to measure angular size with phase (van Belle et al. 1996, 1997; Tej et al. 1999) these are the first dedicated, spatially-resolved K band observations designed to detect size variations in a large sample of Miras at regular intervals over their pulsation periods. Our first goal has been the unambiguous detection of the mira pulsational cycle with phase, already shown in previous work to be as much as 35% of the radial size over the course of a pulsational period (van Belle et al. 1996; Burns et al. 1997; Tuthill et al. 1995; Perrin et al. 1999 ). We will ultimately use these data, along with the best estimates of stellar distance and effective temperatures for these sources, to determine the mode of pulsation. There has long been a debate as to whether Mira variables pulsate in their fundamental or first-overtone mode (Barthes 1999; Feast 1998; Wood and Sebo 1996). Determination of the pulsation behavior of Mira variables may eventually render them suitable as standard candles for distance determination.