EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 402, Number 2, May I 2003
Page(s) 617 - 634
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20030190

A&A 402, 617-634 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20030190

Molecular abundances in carbon-rich circumstellar envelopes

P. M. Woods1, 2, F. L. Schöier3, L.-Å. Nyman1, 4 and H. Olofsson5

1  European Southern Observatory, Alonso de Cordova 3107, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
2  Department of Physics, UMIST, PO Box 88, Manchester M60 1QD, UK
3  Leiden Observatory, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
4  Onsala Space Observatory, 43992 Onsala, Sweden
5  Stockholm Observatory, AlbaNova, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden

(Received 25 September 2002 / Accepted 4 February 2003 )

A millimetre molecular line survey of seven high mass-loss rate carbon stars in both the northern and southern skies is presented. A total of 196 emission lines (47 transitions) from 24 molecular species were detected. The observed CO emission is used to determine mass-loss rates and the physical structure of the circumstellar envelope, such as the density and temperature structure, using a detailed radiative transfer analysis. This enables abundances for the remaining molecular species to be determined. The derived abundances generally vary between the sources by no more than a factor of five indicating that circumstellar envelopes around carbon stars with high mass-loss rates have similar chemical compositions. However, there are some notable exceptions. The most striking difference between the abundances are reflecting the spread in the 12C/ 13C-ratio of about an order of magnitude between the sample stars, which mainly shows the results of nucleosynthesis. The abundance of SiO also shows a variation of more than an order of magnitude between the sources and is on average more than an order of magnitude more abundant than predicted from photospheric chemistry in thermal equilibrium. The over-abundance of SiO is consistent with dynamical modelling of the stellar atmosphere and the inner parts of the wind where a pulsation-driven shock has passed. This scenario is possibly further substantiated by the relatively low amount of CS present in the envelopes. The chemistry occurring in the outer envelope is consistent with current photochemical models.

Key words: molecular processes -- stars: abundances -- stars: AGB and post-AGB -- stars: carbon -- circumstellar matter

Offprint request: P. M. Woods, pwoods@eso.org

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© ESO 2003