Molecular-line inventory of the envelope around the largest known star
Observatorio Astronómico Nacional (IGN),
Alfonso XII, 3 y 5,
2 Observatorio Astronómico Nacional (IGN), PO Box 112, 28803 Alcalá de Henares, Spain
3 European Space Astronomy Centre, Urb. Villafranca del Castillo, PO Box 50727, 28080 Madrid, Spain
4 CAB, INTA-CSIC, Ctra. de Torrejón a Ajalvir, km 4, 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
5 Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200D BUS 2401, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
6 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
7 Sterrenkundig Instituut Anton Pannekoek, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 Amsterdam, The Netherlands
8 Department of Astrophysics/IMAPP, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
9 Onsala Space Observatory, Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences, Chalmers University of Technology, 43992 Onsala, Sweden
10 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
11 The Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
12 N. Copernicus Astronomical Center, Rabiańska 8, 87-100 Toruń, Poland
13 Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands
Accepted: 25 September 2013
Aims. The study of the molecular gas in the circumstellar envelopes of evolved stars is normally undertaken by observing lines of CO (and other species) in the millimetre-wave domain. In general, the excitation requirements of the observed lines are low at these wavelengths, and therefore these observations predominantly probe the cold outer envelope while studying the warm inner regions of the envelopes normally requires sub-millimetre (sub-mm) and far-infrared (FIR) observational data.
Methods. To gain insight into the physical conditions and kinematics of the warm (100–1000 K) gas around the red hyper-giant VY CMa, we performed sensitive high spectral resolution observations of molecular lines in the sub-mm/FIR using the HIFI instrument of the Herschel Space Observatory. We observed CO, H2O, and other molecular species, sampling excitation energies from a few tens to a few thousand K. These observations are part of the Herschel guaranteed time key program HIFISTARS.
Results. We detected the J = 6–5, J = 10–9, and J = 16–15 lines of 12CO and 13CO at ~100, 300, and 750 K above the ground state (and the 13CO J = 9–8 line). These lines are crucial for improving the modelling of the internal layers of the envelope around VY CMa. We also detected 27 lines of H2O and its isotopomers, and 96 lines of species such as NH3, SiO, SO, SO2 HCN, OH and others, some of them originating from vibrationally excited levels. Three lines were not unambiguously assigned.
Conclusions. Our observations confirm that VY CMa’s envelope must consist of two or more detached components. The molecular excitation in the outer layers is significantly lower than in the inner ones, resulting in strong self-absorbed profiles in molecular lines that are optically thick in this outer envelope, for instance, low-lying lines of H2O. Except for the most abundant species, CO and H2O, most of the molecular emission detected at these sub-mm/FIR wavelengths arise from the central parts of the envelope. The spectrum of VY CMa is very prominent in vibrationally excited lines, which are caused by the strong IR pumping present in the central regions. Compared with envelopes of other massive evolved stars, VY CMa’s emission is particularly strong in these vibrationally excited lines, as well as in the emission from less abundant species such as H13CN, SO, and NH3.
Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: mass-loss / stars: individual: VY Canis Majoris / circumstellar matter
Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA. HIFI is the Herschel Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared.
Appendices A and B are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2013