Recently three independent groups(Cox et al. 1992; Kiriakidis et al. 1992; Moskalik and Dziembowski, 1992), using opacity tables published by Iglesias and Rogers (1991), demonstrated that β Cep star models are pulsationally unstable. The instability is driven by the classical к- mechanism acting in the layer with temperatures near 2 × 105K where there is a bump in metal opacity. The groups reported results of calculations made for rather narrow ranges of stellar parameters and oscillation modes. We conducted an extensive search for unstable modes in complete evolutionary models of B-type stars of luminosity classes III - V. Our aim was to determine the domain of instability and examine its role not only in β Cep stars but also in variable stars located in the nearby areas of the H-R diagram.
An unexpected new aspect of our calculations is the use of the improved opacity data. In a very recent work Iglesias, Rogers and Wilson (1992) showed that effects of spin-orbit interactions significantly enhance opacity in the critical region for driving the pulsations in β Cep stars. These effects and improved information about the solar metal mixture have been included in the updated opacity tables kindly provided to us via electronic mail by Dr. Rogers. The consequences of this change in opacity for stability of B-type star models are indeed quite important. Contrary to previously announced results, that only the fundamental mode is unstable, we now find the first two radial overtones to be unstable, as well. Thus, the discrepancy between the theoretical prediction and the mode identification suggested by observers has been removed. Furthermore, no longer is a high metal abundance (Z > 0.03) required to explain the occurrence of pulsation in most of the objects. In fact, the theoretical instability domain in the H-R diagram, based on the models calculated with Z = 0.02, agrees better with the observational β Cep domain than that based on the models Z = 0.03.