EDP Sciences
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Volume 434, Number 3, May II 2005
Page(s) 1021 - 1028
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20042430

A&A 434, 1021-1028 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20042430

Astrophysical water masers: Line profiles analysis

W. H. T. Vlemmings1 and H. J. van Langevelde2

1  Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-6801, USA
    e-mail: wouter@jb.man.ac.uk
2  Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe, Postbus 2, 7990 AA Dwingeloo, The Netherlands

(Received 24 November 2004 / Accepted 12 January 2005)

The changes in the spectral line profile of the 22 GHz H2O maser are calculated as a function of emerging maser flux. We address not only the narrowing and re-broadening of the maser lines, but also the deviations of Gaussian symmetry as a result of the various hyperfine components of the 22 GHz maser line. Non-LTE models of the H2O maser transition, including hyperfine structure and cross-relaxation, are compared with high spectral resolution Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) observations of the H2O masers in the circumstellar envelopes (CSEs) of a sample of late-type stars. This yields estimates on the thermal width in the maser region as well as the emerging maser flux and thus the level of saturation. We also discuss the effect of a velocity gradient along the maser path on the line widths and shapes of the line profile and the effect of the geometry of the maser region. We find that the typical velocity shift along the maser path is of the order of 1.0 km s-1. The effect of this shift on the shape of the maser spectrum is difficult to distinguish from the effect of the hyperfine components.

Key words: masers -- stars: circumstellar matter -- stars: AGB and post-AGB -- line: profiles

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