Volume 399, Number 3, March I 2003
|Page(s)||1021 - 1035|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||14 February 2003|
Imaging polarimetry of stellar light scattered in detached shells around the carbon stars R Scl and U Ant*
Stockholm Observatory, SCFAB, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
2 CTIO, Casilla 603, La Serena, Chile
3 Uppsala Astronomical Observatory, Box 515, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
4 Department of Physical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10 9AB, UK
Corresponding author: D. González Delgado, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 30 October 2002
Imaging polarimetry has been used to study the extended, detached circumstellar shells around the bright carbon stars R Scl and U Ant. The observations were done in two narrow band filters centred on the resonance lines of neutral K and Na, but much broader than the expected line widths. The polarimetric data reveal brightness distributions, in both cases, which are in perfect agreement with previous observations of scattered light obtained through direct imaging techniques. The total intensity images towards R Scl outline, in both filters, circular disk-like distributions out to a radius of ≈21″, where the intensity drops sharply. The polarised intensity images reveal, however, that the scattering occurs in a geometrically thin shell. The degree of polarisation reaches values of ≈35% in both filters. The imaging polarimetry observations of U Ant reveal a somewhat more complex structure, where the existence of several shells can be discerned. The polarised scattered light comes from a component, at a radius of ≈50″ from the star, which lies outside the region where the bulk of the light is scattered. The latter comes from a dominating shell at ≈43″, which coincides spatially with the detached gas shell inferred from CO radio line data, and there may be another two shells inside this. The polarisation degree reaches ≈50% in the outer component. We model, with a code based on the Monte Carlo method, the scattered emission under the assumption of dust scattering, using the observed polarised brightness distributions as constraints. In the case of R Scl we found that the polarised, as well as the total, light distributions can be explained by scattering in a 2″ wide shell of radius 20″ containing a dust mass of ≈ . This dust shell is also responsible for the thermal dust emission measured by IRAS. There is room, up to 30% of the total scattered flux, for other scattering agents. Comparison with CO radio line data shows that this dust shell probably lies outside the detached CO gas shell. In the case of U Ant the modelling explains the outer component in terms of a 5″ wide shell at a radius of about 52″ with a dust mass of ≈ . This is also the dust shell responsible for the emission measured by IRAS. However, the bulk of the scattered light cannot in this case be due to scattering by dust. In accordance with a discussion in a previous paper we attribute the remaining, unpolarised, scattering to the KI and Na D resonance lines. In both cases we found evidence that a dust shell has separated from the rest of the circumstellar medium. This may be due to gas-grain drift, or to hydrodynamical effects, which may also explain the complex multiple-shell structure seen towards U Ant. The model results are very dependent on the grain size distribution, and the observational data can only be reconciled with a very steep decline in grain size.
Key words: stars: carbon / circumstellar matter / polarization / stars: individual: R Scl, U Ant / stars: mass-loss
© ESO, 2003
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