Debris discs with multiple absorption features in metallic lines: circumstellar or interstellar origin?

D. Iglesias, A. Bayo, J. Olofsson, Z. Wahhaj, C. Eiroa, B. Montesinos, I. Rebollido, J. Smoker, L. Sbordone, M. R. Schreiber, Th. Henning. 2018. Debris discs with multiple absorption features in metallic lines: circumstellar or interstellar origin?. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 480, 1, 488-520, DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty1724

Debris discs are second-generation dusty discs thought to be devoid of gas. However, this idea has been challenged in the last years by gas detections in some systems. We compiled a database of 301 debris discs and collected high-resolution optical spectra for similar to 77 per cent of them. From the analysis of these data we identified a group of 23 debris discs presenting several absorption features superimposed to the photospheric Ca II and Na I doublets. These absorptions could be due to circumstellar material or interstellar clouds. In order to discriminate between the two scenarios, we characterized each feature in terms of its radial velocity, equivalent width, and column density. Additionally, we searched in the literature for local clouds in the line of sight of the stars, and looked for the presence of similar absorption features in nearby stars. Our study concludes that while all the objects present interstellar absorptions in their spectra, three objects show features more compatible with circumstellar origin: HD 110058 presents a stable circumstellar absorption, while HR4796 and c Aql present variable absorption features likely due to exocometary activity. The minute-scale variability we detect towards c Aql is the shortest of this kind detected so far. The detection of circumstellar features in these objects is consistent with their near edge-on inclinations. We also provide evidence challenging previous claims of circumstellar gas detections for HR 6507. Given the properties of the sample, we speculate that transient gaseous events must be a common phenomenon among debris discs.

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