Category Archives: Publications

Sun-as-a-star observations of the 2017 August 21 solar eclipse

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) is a state-of-the-art, thermally stabilized, fiber-fed, high-resolution spectrograph for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) at Mt. Graham, Arizona. During daytime the instrument is fed with sunlight from the 10-millimeter aperture, fully automated, binocular Solar Disk-Integrated (SDI) telescope. The observed Sun-as-a-star spectra contain a multitude of photospheric and chromospheric spectral lines in the wavelength ranges 4200-4800 Å and 5300-6300 Å. One of the advantages of PEPSI is that solar spectra are recorded in the exactly same manner as nighttime targets. Thus, solar and stellar spectra can be directly compared. PEPSI/SDI recorded 116 Sun-as-a-star spectra during the 2017 August 21 solar eclipse. The observed maximum obscuration was 61.6%. The spectra were taken with a spectral resolution of ≈ 250000 and an exposure time of 0.3 s. The high-spectral resolution facilitates detecting subtle changes in the spectra while the Moon passes the solar disk. Sun-as-a-star spectra are affected by changing contributions due to limb darkening and solar differential rotation, and to a lesser extend by supergranular velocity pattern and the presence of active regions on the solar surface. The goal of this study is to investigate the temporal evolution of the chromospheric Na D doublet during the eclipse and to compare observations with synthetic line profiles computed with the state-of-the-art Bifrost code.


Read more: Dineva et al. 2020, IAU Symp. 354, 473

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Surface magnetic activity of the fast-rotating G5 giant IN Comae, central star of the faint planetary nebula LoTr 5

We present a time series of 13 consecutive Doppler images covering six months in 2017 that we used to measure the surface differential rotation with a cross-correlation method. Hitherto unpublished high-precision photometric data from 1989 to 2017 are presented. We applied Fourier-transformation-based frequency analysis to both photometry and spectra. Very high resolution (R ≈ 200 000) spectra were used to update IN Com’s astrophysical parameters by means of spectral synthesis.
Results: Our time-series Doppler images show cool and warm spots coexisting with an average surface temperature contrast of -1000 K and +300 K with respect to the effective temperature. Approximately 8% of the stellar surface is covered with cool spots and ∼3% with warm spots. A consistent cool polar spot is seen in all images. The average lifetime of the cool spots is not much more than a few stellar rotations (one month), while the warm spots appear to live longer (three months) and are mostly confined to high latitudes. We found anti-solar surface differential rotation with a shear coefficient of α = -0.026 ± 0.005 suggesting an equatorial rotation period of 5.973 ± 0.008 d. We reconfirm the 5.9 day rotation period of the cool star from photometry, radial velocities, and Hα line-profile variations. A long-term V-brightness variation with a likely period of 7.2 yr is also found. It appears in phase with the orbital radial velocity of the binary system in the sense that it is brightest at highest velocity and faintest at lowest velocity, that is, at the two phases of quadrature. We redetermine [Ba/Fe], [Y/Fe], and [Sr/Fe] ratios and confirm the overabundance of these s-process elements in the atmosphere of IN Com.

Doppler image for the PEPSI at VATT spectra. The corresponding mid-UT date is 11 March, 2017.


Read more: Kovari et al. 2019, A&A 624, A83

First ZDI with PEPSI

We present a temperature and a magnetic-field surface map of the K2 subgiant of the active binary II Peg. Employed are high resolution Stokes IV spectra obtained with the new Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). Our main result is that the temperature features on II Peg closely correlate with its magnetic field topology. We find a warm spot (350K warmer with respect to the effective temperature) of positive polarity and radial field density of 1.1 kG coexisting with a cool spot (780K cooler) of negative polarity of 2 kG.

Temperature map from four different viewing angles.

Magnetic field map from four different viewing angles.

Read more: Strassmeier, Carroll & Ilyin 2019 A&A, 625, 27 

AIP press release
LBT press release



Revised carbon 12C/13C isotope ratio of α Aurigae

The new measure of the carbon 12C/13C isotope ratio of the primary component of Capella, 17.8 ± 1.9, using high-resolution R ≈ 250 000 spectra obtained with PEPSI at both the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) is significantly lower than the previous value of 27 ± 4 but now agrees better with the recent model prediction of 18.8-20.7.

The spectrum synthesis fitting.

Read more: Sablowski et al. 2019 A&A, 622, L11



EK Draconis showing evidence for starspot penumbrae

The first temperature surface map of EK Dra from very-high-resolution spectra obtained with the Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope shows four cool spots. The temperature morphology of one of them appears to show so far the best evidence for the existence of a solar-like penumbra for a starspot.

Left: Temperature Doppler image of EK Draconis. Right: iMap reconstruction of the spot that indicates evidence for penumbra.

Read more: Järvinen et al. 2018, A&A, 620, 162


KELT-9 b optical Mg I triplet detected

PEPSI has detected the optical Mg I triplet at 7.8-sigma in the extended atmosphere of the ultra-hot Jupiter KELT-9 b. Constraints are placed on the density and radial extent of the excited hydrogen envelope.

Average line profiles for the Mg triplet lines of the Kelt-9 b atmosphere.
Average line profiles for the Mg triplet lines of the Kelt-9 b atmosphere. ST is the ratio stellar spectrum in transit divided by stellar spectrum out of transit. Possible contaminating atomic transitions are marked with vertical red lines. Spectral resolution R is 50,000.


Read more: Cauley et al., 2019, AJ 157, 69

Want a PEPSI? Performance status of the recently commissioned high-resolution spectrograph and polarimeter for the 2×8.4m Large Binocular Telescope

PEPSI is the new fiber-fed and stabilized “Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument” for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). It covers the entire optical wavelength range from 384 to 913 nm in three exposures at resolutions of either R=λ/▵λ=50,000, 130,000 or 250,000. The R=130,000 mode can also be used with two dual-beam Stokes IQUV polarimeters. The 50,000-mode with its 12-pix sampling per resolution element is our “bad seeing” or “faint-object” mode. A robotic solar-disk-integration (SDI) telescope feeds solar light to PEPSI during day time and a 450-m fiber feed from the 1.8m VATT can be used when the LBT is busy otherwise. CCD characterization and a removal procedure for the spatial fixed-pattern noise were the main tasks left from the commissioning phase. Several SDI spectral time series with up to 300 individual spectra per day recovered the well-known solar 5-minute oscillation at a peak of 3 mHz (5.5min) with a disk-integrated radial-velocity amplitude of only 47 cm/s. Spectral atlases for 50 bright benchmark stars including the Sun were recently released to the scientific community, among them the ancient planet- system host Kepler-444. These data combine PEPSI’s high spectral resolution of R=250,000 with signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) of many hundreds to even thousands covering the entire optical to near-infrared wavelength range from 384 to 913 nm. Other early science cases were exoplanet transits including TRAPPIST-1, a spectrum of Boyajian’s star that revealed strong and structured but stable ISM Na D lines, a spectrum of Oph allowing a redetermination of the ISM Li line doublet, and a first Doppler image of the young solar analog EK Dra that revealed starspots with solar-like penumbrae.

Read more: Strassmeier et al. 2018, SPIE 10702, id. 1070212

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PEPSI deep spectra. III. Chemical analysis of the ancient planet-host star Kepler-444

Context. With the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), we obtained a spectrum with PEPSI, its new optical high-resolution échelle spectrograph. The spectrum has very high resolution and a high signal-to-noise (S/N) and is of the K0V host Kepler-444, which is known to host five sub-Earth-sized rocky planets. The spectrum has a resolution of R ≈ 250 000, a continuous wavelength coverage from 4230 Å to 9120 Å, and an S/N between 150-550:1 (blue to red). Aim. We performed a detailed chemical analysis to determine the photospheric abundances of 18 chemical elements. These were used to place constraints on the bulk composition of the five rocky planets.
Methods: Our spectral analysis employs the equivalent-width method for most of our spectral lines, but we used spectral synthesis to fit a small number of lines that required special care. In both cases, we derived our abundances using the MOOG spectral analysis package and Kurucz model atmospheres.
Results: We find no correlation between elemental abundance and condensation temperature among the refractory elements (TC > 950 K). In addition, using our spectroscopic stellar parameters and isochrone fitting, we find an age of 10 ± 1.5 Gyr, which is consistent with the asteroseismic age of 11 ± 1 Gyr. Finally, from the photospheric abundances of Mg, Si, and Fe, we estimate that the typical Fe-core mass fraction for the rocky planets in the Kepler-444 system is approximately 24%.
Conclusions: If our estimate of the Fe-core mass fraction is confirmed by more detailed modeling of the disk chemistry and simulations of planet formation and evolution in the Kepler-444 system, then this would suggest that rocky planets in more metal-poor and α-enhanced systems may tend to be less dense than their counterparts of comparable size in more metal-rich systems.

Read more: Mack, Strassmeier, Ilyin, Schuler, Spada, Barnes, 2018, A&A, 612A, 46

PEPSI deep spectra. II. Gaia benchmark stars and other M-K standards

Context. High-resolution échelle spectra confine many essential stellar parameters once the data reach a quality appropriate to constrain the various physical processes that form these spectra. Aim. We provide a homogeneous library of high-resolution, high-S/N spectra for 48 bright AFGKM stars, some of them approaching the quality of solar-flux spectra. Our sample includes the northern Gaia benchmark stars, some solar analogs, and some other bright Morgan-Keenan (M-K) spectral standards.
Methods: Well-exposed deep spectra were created by average-combining individual exposures. The data-reduction process relies on adaptive selection of parameters by using statistical inference and robust estimators. We employed spectrum synthesis techniques and statistics tools in order to characterize the spectra and give a first quick look at some of the science cases possible.
Results: With an average spectral resolution of R ≈ 220 000 (1.36 km s-1), a continuous wavelength coverage from 383 nm to 912 nm, and S/N of between 70:1 for the faintest star in the extreme blue and 6000:1 for the brightest star in the red, these spectra are now made public for further data mining and analysis. Preliminary results include new stellar parameters for 70 Vir and α Tau, the detection of the rare-earth element dysprosium and the heavy elements uranium, thorium and neodymium in several RGB stars, and the use of the 12C to 13C isotope ratio for age-related determinations. We also found Arcturus to exhibit few-percent Ca II H&K and Hα residual profile changes with respect to the KPNO atlas taken in 1999.

Read more: Strassmeier, Ilyin, Weber, 2018, A&A, 612A, 45

PEPSI deep spectra. I. The Sun-as-a-star

Context. Full-disk solar flux spectra can be directly compared to stellar spectra and thereby serve as our most important reference source for, for example stellar chemical abundances, magnetic activity phenomena, radial-velocity signatures or global pulsations. Aim. As part of the first Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) key-science project, we aim to provide well-exposed and average-combined (viz. deep) high-resolution spectra of representative stellar targets. Such deep spectra contain an overwhelming amount of information, typically much more than what could be analyzed and discussed within a single publication. Therefore, these spectra will be made available in form of (electronic) atlases. The first star in this series of papers is our Sun. It also acts as a system-performance cornerstone.
Methods: The Sun was monitored with PEPSI at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). Instead of the LBT we used a small robotic solar disk integration (SDI) telescope. The deep spectra in this paper are the results of combining up to ≈100 consecutive exposures per wavelength setting and are compared with other solar flux atlases.
Results: Our software for the optimal data extraction and reduction of PEPSI spectra is described and verified with the solar data. Three deep solar flux spectra with a spectral resolution of up to 270 000, a continuous wavelength coverage from 383 nm to 914 nm, and a photon signal to noise ratio (S/N) of between 2000-8000:1 depending on wavelength are presented. Additionally, a time-series of 996 high-cadence spectra in one cross disperser is used to search for intrinsic solar modulations. The wavelength calibration based on Th-Ar exposures and simultaneous Fabry-Pérot combs enables an absolute wavelength solution within 10 m s-1 (rms) with respect to the HARPS laser-comb solar atlas and a relative rms of 1.2 m s-1 for one day. For science demonstration, we redetermined the disk-average solar Li abundance to 1.09 ± 0.04 dex on the basis of 3D NLTE model atmospheres. We detected disk-averaged p-mode RV oscillations with a full amplitude of 47 cm s-1 at 5.5 min.
Conclusions: Comparisons with two solar FTS atlases, as well as with the HARPS solar atlas, validate the PEPSI data product. Now, PEPSI/SDI solar-flux spectra are being taken with a sampling of one deep spectrum per day, and are supposed to continue a full magnetic cycle of the Sun.

Read more:  Strassmeier, Ilyin, Steffen, 2018, A&A, 612A, 44