TRES survey of variable diffuse interstellar bands

Charles J. Law, Dan Milisavljevic, Kyle N. Crabtree, Sommer L. Johansen, Daniel J. Patnaude, Raffaella Margutti, Jerod T. Parrent, Maria R. Drout, Nathan E. Sanders, Robert P. Kirshner, David W. Latham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs) aical/nearinfrared spectra of stars and thought to be associated with polyatomic molecules that comprise a significant reservoir of organic material in the Universe. However, the central wavelengths of almost all DIBs do not correspond with electronic transitions of known atomic or molecular species and the specific physical nature of their carriers remains inconclusive despite decades of observational, theoretical and experimental research. It is well established that DIB carriers are located in the interstellar medium, but the recent discovery of time-varying DIBs in the spectra of the extragalactic supernova SN 2012ap suggests that some may be created in massive star environments. Here, we report evidence of short time-scale (10-60 d) changes in DIB absorption line substructure towards 3 of 17 massive stars observed as part of a pathfinder survey of variable DIBs conducted with the 1.5-m Tillinghast telescope and Tillinghast Reflector Echelle Spectrograph (TRES) at Fred L. Whipple Observatory. The detections are made in high-resolution optical spectra (R 44 000) having signal-to-noise ratios of 5-15 around the 5797 and 6614 Å features, and are considered significant but requiring further investigation. We find that these changes are potentially consistent with interactions between stellar winds and DIB carriers in close proximity. Our findings motivate a larger survey to further characterize these variations and may establish a powerful new method for probing the poorly understood physical characteristics of DIB carriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2835-2844
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 21 2017


  • Astrochemistry
  • ISM: lines and bands
  • ISM: molecules
  • Molecular processes
  • Stars: mass-loss
  • Stars: winds, outflows

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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