Massive O- and B-type stars are “cosmic engines” in the Universe and can be the dominant source of luminosity in a galaxy. Be stars are rapidly rotating B-type stars that lose mass in an equatorial, circumstellar disk (Porter & Rivinius 2003) and cause Balmer and other line emission. Currently, we are unsure as to why these stars rotate so quickly but three scenarios are possible: they may have been born as rapid rotators, spun up by binary mass transfer, or spun up during the main-sequence evolution of B stars. In order to investigate these scenarios for this population of massive stars, we have been spectroscopically observing a set of 115 field Be stars with the Kitt Peak Coudè Feed telescope in both the Hα and Hγ wavelength regimes since 2004. This time baseline allows for examination of variability properties of the circumstellar disks as well as determine candidates for closer examination for binarity.
We find that 90% of the observed stars show some variability with only 4% showing significant variability over the 4-year baseline. Such values may be compared with the significant variability seen in some clusters such as NGC 3766 (McSwain 2008). Also, while 20% of the sample consists of known binaries, we find that another 15-30% of the sample shows indications of binarity.
This work has been supported in part by a grant from the Vanderbilt University Learning Sciences Institute, NASA grant # NNX08AV70G, and NSF Career grant AST-0349075.