EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 501, Number 2, July II 2009
Page(s) 647 - 657
Section Stellar structure and evolution
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200811537
Published online 13 May 2009
A&A 501, 647-657 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200811537

The modulation of SiO maser polarization by Jovian planets

H. Wiesemeyer

Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique, 300 rue de la Piscine, Domaine Universitaire, 38406 Saint Martin d'Hères, France
    e-mail: wiesemey@iram.fr

Received 17 December 2008 / Accepted 27 March 2009

Aims. Searching for planets in the atmosphere of AGB stars is difficult, due to confusion with the stellar wind and pulsations. The aim here is to provide a complementary strategy for planet searches in such a dense environment.
Methods. The polarization properties of SiO masers, especially their circular polarization, are, under certain conditions, good tracers of rapid magnetospheric events. A Jovian planet with a magnetosphere whose dipole axis is misaligned with its rotation axis naturally provides such conditions. Here I present several models showing that the polarization will be periodically modulated.
Results. The linear and circular polarization of an SiO maser in a planetary magnetosphere is modulated by the precessing dipole component of the latter. The effect is measurable in saturated masers, while unsaturated masers only exhibit weak changes, because of dilution effects, and because the circular polarization there stems from the Zeeman effect making it as weak as for thermal radiation. The situation would change if anisotropic pump- and loss-rates were included, which would increase the fractional linear and, via magnetorotation, the circular polarization of the modulation.
Conclusions. Single-dish monitoring with a dense enough time sampling and a carefully calibrated polarimeter, in combination with VLBI observations, are suited to detecting and locating a periodic modulation of the circular maser polarization due to a precessing Jovian magnetosphere. The phenomenon will be rare, because a favorable arrangement of maser and magnetosphere is needed. Otherwise the polarization may be below the detection threshold, especially if the maser is unsaturated. Though exhibiting a qualitatively similar modulation, linear polarization is likely to suffer more from confusion due to dilution of the magnetosphere within the maser cross section, even in VLBI observations.

Key words: polarization -- masers -- stars: AGB and post-AGB -- stars: magnetic fields -- planetary systems -- stars: atmospheres

© ESO 2009