EDP Sciences
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Volume 487, Number 3, September I 2008
Page(s) 1055 - 1073
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200810036
Published online 24 June 2008

A&A 487, 1055-1073 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200810036

Molecules and dust production in the Magellanic Clouds

J. Th. van Loon1, M. Cohen2, J. M. Oliveira1, M. Matsuura3, 4, I. McDonald1, G. C. Sloan5, P. R. Wood6, and A. A. Zijlstra7

1  Astrophysics Group, Lennard-Jones Laboratories, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK
    e-mail: jacco@astro.keele.ac.uk
2  Radio Astronomy Lab, 601 Campbell Hall, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley CA 94720-3411, USA
3  National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Osawa 2-21-1, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-8588, Japan
4  Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
5  Cornell University, Astronomy Department, Ithaca, NY 14853-6801, USA
6  Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University, Cotter Road, Weston Creek, ACT 2611, Australia
7  Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, The University of Manchester, Alan Turing Building, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

Received 23 April 2008 / Accepted 20 June 2008

We present ESO/VLT spectra in the 2.9-4.1 $\mu$m range for a large sample of infrared stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), mainly carbon stars, massive oxygen-rich Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars, and red supergiants. Strong emission from Polycyclic Aromatic Hyrdrocarbons (PAHs) is detected in the spectrum of the post-AGB object MSX SMC 29. Water ice is detected in at least one Young Stellar Object, IRAS 01042-7215, for the first time in the SMC. The strength and shapes of the molecular bands detected in the evolved stars are compared with similar data for stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Absorption from acetylene in carbon stars is found to be equally strong in the SMC as in the LMC, but the LMC stars show stronger dust emission in their infrared colours and veiling of the molecular bands. This suggests that a critical link exists in the formation of dust from the molecular atmosphere in carbon stars which scales with the initial metallicity. Nucleation seeds based on a secondary element such as titanium or silicon provide a plausible explanation. In oxygen-rich stars, both the nucleation seeds and molecular condensates depend on secondary elements (in particular titanium, silicon, and/or aluminium), which explains the observed lower molecular abundances and lower dust content in the SMC stars. Emission from silicon monoxide seen in some oxygen-rich AGB stars and red supergiants in the SMC suggests that these metal-poor stars are able to drive strong pulsation shocks through their molecular layers. Data for pulsating dusty AGB stars and supergiants in the LMC are used to show that pulsation is likely the critical factor in driving mass loss, as long as dust forms, rather than the stellar luminosity. Finally, we suggest that the reduced dust production and consequently slower winds of metal-poor AGB stars and red supergiants are more likely to result in chemical inhomogeneities and small-scale structure in the interstellar medium.

Key words: stars: carbon -- stars: AGB and post-AGB -- stars: mass-loss -- stars: supergiants -- galaxies: Magellanic Clouds -- infrared: stars

© ESO 2008

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