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Study of Spectroscopic Binaries

Astronomical spectroscopy has long been used to study what the stars are made of. More recently however, it has been applied to gravitationally bound double star systems to reveal unique information on the masses of distant stars.

Rosemary Willatt (4th-year MSci student, 2004/5) investigated Doppler shifts in spectra of HD112014, Alf Uma, Alf Cam and Lambda Tau to identify the relative motions of the stars in their systems and asses their orbital properties. Her data span over five years of observations and was all collected by UCL astronomy students at the Observatoire de Haute Provence.

As part of her investigation into chemically peculiar stars, peculiarities were noted in the spectrum of binary system Phi Herculis, later attributed to the secondary member. Constraints on the chemical composition and other characteristics of this star were previously not known, but were determined during this investigation