The large- and small-scale Ca IIK structure of the Milky Way from observations of Galactic and Magellanic sightlines

J. V. Smoker*, F. P. Keenan, A. J. Fox

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
151 Downloads (Pure)


Aims. The large and small-scale (pc) structure of the Galactic interstellar medium can be investigated by utilising spectra of early-type stellar probes of known distances in the same region of the sky. This paper determines the variation in line strength of Ca ii at 3933.661 Å as a function of probe separation for a large sample of stars, including a number of sightlines in the Magellanic Clouds. 

Methods. FLAMES-GIRAFFE data taken with the Very Large Telescope towards early-type stars in 3 Galactic and 4 Magellanic open clusters in Ca ii are used to obtain the velocity, equivalent width, column density, and line width of interstellar Galactic calcium for a total of 657 stars, of which 443 are Magellanic Cloud sightlines. In each cluster there are between 43 and 111 stars observed. Additionally, FEROS and UVES Ca ii K and Na i D spectra of 21 Galactic and 154 Magellanic early-type stars are presented and combined with data from the literature to study the calcium column density - parallax relationship. 

Results. For the four Magellanic clusters studied with FLAMES, the strength of the Galactic interstellar Ca ii K equivalent width on transverse scales from ∼0.05-9 pc is found to vary by factors of ∼1.8-3.0, corresponding to column density variations of ∼0.3-0.5 dex in the optically-thin approximation. Using FLAMES, FEROS, and UVES archive spectra, the minimum and maximum reduced equivalent widths for Milky Way gas are found to lie in the range ∼35-125 mÅ and ∼30-160 mÅ for Ca ii K and Na i D, respectively. The range is consistent with a previously published simple model of the interstellar medium consisting of spherical cloudlets of filling factor ∼0.3, although other geometries are not ruled out. Finally, the derived functional form for parallax (π) and Ca ii column density (NCaII) is found to be π(mas) = 1 / (2.39 × 10-13 × NCaII (cm-2) + 0.11). Our derived parallax is ∼25 per cent lower than predicted by Megier et al. (2009, A&A, 507, 833) at a distance of ∼100 pc and ∼15 percent lower at a distance of ∼200 pc, reflecting inhomogeneity in the Ca ii distribution in the different sightlines studied.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA59
Number of pages90
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 07 Oct 2015


  • Galaxy: abundances
  • ISM: lines and bands
  • Magellanic Clouds
  • Stars: early-type

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The large- and small-scale Ca IIK structure of the Milky Way from observations of Galactic and Magellanic sightlines'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this