Beyond the Kepler/K2 bright limit: variability in the seven brightest members of the Pleiades

White, T. R.; Pope, B. J. S.; Antoci, V.; Pápics, P. I.; Aerts, C.; Gies, D. R.; Gordon, K.; Huber, D.; Schaefer, G. H.; Aigrain, S.; Albrecht, S.; Barclay, T.; Barentsen, G.; Beck, P. G.; Bedding, T. R.; Fredslund Andersen, M.; Grundahl, F.; Howell, S. B.; Ireland, M. J.; Murphy, S. J.; Nielsen, M. B.; Silva Aguirre, V.; Tuthill, P. G.

Beyond the Kepler/K2 bright limit: variability in the seven brightest members of the Pleiades,
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 471, Issue 3


The most powerful tests of stellar models come from the brightest stars in the sky, for which complementary techniques, such as astrometry, asteroseismology, spectroscopy and interferometry, can be combined. The K2 mission is providing a unique opportunity to obtain high-precision photometric time series for bright stars along the ecliptic. However, bright targets require a large number of pixels to capture the entirety of the stellar flux, and CCD saturation, as well as restrictions on data storage and bandwidth, limit the number and brightness of stars that can be observed.

To overcome this, we have developed a new photometric technique, which we call halo photometry, to observe very bright stars using a limited number of pixels. Halo photometry is simple, fast and does not require extensive pixel allocation, and will allow us to use K2 and other photometric missions, such as TESS, to observe very bright stars for asteroseismology and to search for transiting exoplanets. We apply this method to the seven brightest stars in the Pleiades open cluster. Each star exhibits variability; six of the stars show what are most likely slowly pulsating B-star pulsations, with amplitudes ranging from 20 to 2000 ppm. For the star Maia, we demonstrate the utility of combining K2 photometry with spectroscopy and interferometry to show that it is not a `Maia variable’, and to establish that its variability is caused by rotational modulation of a large chemical spot on a 10 d time-scale.

Key words: asteroseismology / techniques: photometric / stars: early type / stars: variables: general / open clusters and associations: individual: Pleiades

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *