Volume 535, November 2011
|Number of page(s)||5|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||18 November 2011|
Near-infrared spectro-interferometry of three OH/IR stars with the VLTI/AMBER instrument⋆
ESO, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany
2 Departamento de Astronomía, Universidad de Guanajuato. Apartado Postal 144, 36000 Guanajuato, Mexico
3 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
4 German Aerospace Center, Space Agency, Königswinterer-Straße 522-524, 53227 Bonn, Germany
Received: 1 September 2011
Accepted: 17 October 2011
Aims. We investigate the molecular and dusty environment of OH/IR stars in order to characterize the mass-loss process during the tip-AGB superwind phase.
Methods. Employing the AMBER instrument at the VLT Interferometer we obtained near-infrared H- and K-band spectro-interferometric observations of the three OH/IR stars IRAS 13479-5436, IRAS 14086-6907 and IRAS 17020-5254 with a spectral resolution of about 35. We use a two-component geometrical model, consisting of a uniform disk and a Gaussian disk, to obtain characteristic angular sizes of the central stellar sources and their dust envelopes, as well as the flux ratios between these components.
Results. Angular uniform disk diameters of the three central components of the objects above have values between 3.2 mas and 5.4 mas. For their dust envelopes, we find FWHM values between 17.1 mas and 25.2 mas. The three objects show significantly different flux contributions of the shells to the total near-IR flux of 61%, 38%, and 16% for IRAS 13479-5436, IRAS 14086-6907, and IRAS 17020-5254, respectively. According to distance estimates from the literature, the central stellar components have radii between 900 R⊙ and 1400 R⊙, while their dust envelopes reach FWHM values between 9000 R⊙ and 13 000 R⊙. The visibility functions of all three sources exhibit wavelength variations that resemble those of earlier VLTI/AMBER observations of semi-regular and Mira variable AGB stars. These are interpreted as characteristic of atmospheric molecular layers lying above the photosphere.
Conclusions. The derived characteristic sizes of both, the central stellar atmospheres and dust envelopes are consistent with the canonical properties of OH/IR stars. The spectral visibility variations resemble those of other AGB stars and indicate the presence of molecular layers, confirming that these are a common phenomenon among AGB stars of very different luminosities and mass-loss rates, alike. We also find that the dust envelopes have a clearly larger optical depth than those known for Mira stars. We interpret this as an expected result of the “superwind” phase, the final 10 000 to 30 000 years of AGB-evolution, when the mass-loss rate increases by a factor of 10–100. By their different optical depths, the three dust shells studied here may represent different stages of the “superwind” and different initial masses.
Key words: techniques: interferometric / stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: late-type / circumstellar matter
© ESO, 2011
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