EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 377, Number 3, October III 2001
Page(s) 868 - 897
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011090

A&A 377, 868-897 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011090

Mass, linear momentum and kinetic energy of bipolar flows in protoplanetary nebulae

V. Bujarrabal1, A. Castro-Carrizo1, J. Alcolea1 and C. Sánchez Contreras1, 2

1  Observatorio Astronómico Nacional, Apartado 1143, 28800 Alcalá de Henares, Spain
    e-mail: bujarrabal,j.alcolea,carrizo@oan.es
2  Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
    e-mail: sanchez@eclipse.jpl.nasa.gov

(Received 16 February 2001 / Accepted 26 July 2001)

We have studied the CO emission from protoplanetary nebulae (PPNe). Our sample is composed of 37 objects and includes, we think, all well identified PPNe detected in CO, together with the two yellow hypergiants emitting in CO and one young PN. We present a summary of the existing CO data, including accurate new observations of the 12CO and 13CO J=1-0 and J=2-1 lines in 16 objects. We identify in the nebulae a slowly expanding shell (represented in the spectra by a central core) and a fast outflow (corresponding to the line wings), that in the well studied PPNe is known to be bipolar. Excluding poor data, we end up with a sample of 32 sources (including the 16 observed by us); fast flows are detected in 28 of these nebulae, being absent in only 4. We present a method to estimate from these data the mass, "scalar" momentum and kinetic energy of the different components of the molecular outflows. We argue that the uncertainties of our method can hardly lead to significant overestimates of these parameters, although underestimates may be present in not well studied objects. The total nebular mass is often as high as ~1 $M_{\odot}$, and the mass-loss rate, that (presumably during the last stages of the AGB phase) originated the nebula, had typical values ~10-4 $M_{\odot}$ yr-1. The momentum corresponding to this mass ejection process in most studied nebulae is accurately coincident with the maximum momentum that radiation pressure, acting through absorption by dust grains, is able to supply (under expected conditions). We estimate that this high-efficiency process lasts about 1000-10 000 yr, after which the star has ejected a good fraction of its mass and the AGB phase ends. On the other hand, the fast molecular outflows, that have probably been accelerated by shock interaction with axial post-AGB jets, carry a significant fraction of the nebular mass, with a very high momentum (in most cases between 1037 and 1040 g cm s-1) and very high kinetic energy (usually between 1044 and 1047 erg). In general, yellow hypergiants and post-AGB objects with low initial mass show nebular masses and momenta that are, respectively, higher and lower than these values. We compare the momenta of the fast outflows with those that can be supplied by radiation pressure, taking into account the expected short acceleration times and some effects that can increase the momentum transfer. We find that in about 80% of PPNe, the fast molecular flows have too high momenta to be powered by radiation pressure. In some cases the momentum of the outflow is ~1000 larger than that carried by radiation pressure; such high factors are difficult to explain even under exceptional conditions. Wind interaction is the basic phenomenon in the PN shaping from the former AGB envelopes; we conclude that this interaction systematically takes place along a dominant direction and that this process is not powered by radiation pressure. Due to the lack of theoretical studies, the possible momentum source remains a matter of speculation.

Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB -- stars: circumstellar matter -- radio-lines: stars -- planetary nebulae

Offprint request: V. Bujarrabal, bujarrabal@oan.es

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