The diversity of methanol maser morphologies from VLBI observations *
Toruń Centre for Astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Gagarina 11, 87-100 Toruń, Poland e-mail: [annan;msz]@astro.uni.torun.pl
2 Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe, Postbus 2, 7990 AA Dwingeloo, The Netherlands e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Sterrewacht Leiden, Postbus 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
4 Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester, M13 9PL, UK e-mail: email@example.com
5 Department of Physics and Astronomy, MSC07 4220, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 National Radio Astronomy Observatory, 1003 Lopezville Road, Socorro, NM 87801, USA
Accepted: 23 April 2009
Context. The 6.7 GHz methanol maser marks an early stage of high-mass star formation, but the origin of this maser is currently a matter of debate. In particular it is unclear whether the maser emission arises in discs, outflows or behind shocks running into rotating molecular clouds.
Aims. We investigated which structures the methanol masers trace in the environment of high-mass protostar candidates by observing a homogenous sample of methanol masers selected from Torun surveys. We also probed their origins by looking for associated H II regions and IR emission.
Methods. We selected 30 methanol sources with improved position accuracies achieved using MERLIN and another 3 from the literature. We imaged 31 of these using the European VLBI Network's expanded array of telescopes with 5-cm (6-GHz) receivers. We used the VLA to search for 8.4 GHz radio continuum counterparts and inspected Spitzer GLIMPSE data at 3.6–8 μm from the archive.
Results. High angular resolution images allowed us to analyze the morphology and kinematics of the methanol masers in great detail and verify their association with radio continuum and mid-infrared emission. A new class of “ring-like” methanol masers in star-forming regions appeared to be suprisingly common, 29% of the sample.
Conclusions. The new morphology strongly suggests that methanol masers originate in the disc or torus around a proto- or a young massive star. However, the maser kinematics indicate the strong influence of outflow or infall. This suggests that they form at the interface between the disc/torus and a flow. This is also strongly supported by Spitzer results because the majority of the masers coincide with 4.5 μm emission to within less than 1´´. Only four masers are associated with the central parts of UC H II regions. This implies that 6.7 GHz methanol maser emission occurs before H II region observable at cm wavelengths is formed.
Key words: stars: formation / ISM: molecules / masers / instrumentation: high angular resolution
© ESO, 2009