High-resolution IR and radio observations of AGB stars
LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, UPMC, Université Paris-Diderot, Paris
Sciences et Lettres Research University,
5 place Jules Janssen,
2 National Radio Astronomy Observatory, 520 Edgemont Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903-2475, USA
3 California Institute of Technology, NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
4 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
Received: 4 October 2014
Accepted: 20 January 2015
Aims. We present the results of observations with interferometers of a sample of pulsating asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in the infrared and at radio wavelengths. The goal of these observations is to explore the extended stellar atmospheres and to establish links between the spatial scales of molecular envelopes and of the dust shell. This is the key to better understand the process of dust formation and therefore of mass loss.
Methods. We used the ESO VLTI/MIDI interferometer in the N band, the Keck Interferometer in the K band, and NRAO VLBA observations of SiO masers at 7 mm wavelength of a sample of AGB stars: U Ari, W Cnc, RX Tau, RT Tau, RT Aql, S Ser, and V Mon. The various instruments probe different altitudes of the atmosphere of the AGB stars. They are sensitive to regions below the silicate dust condensation distance and provide the opportunity of finding hints about how dust and its precursors form in the extended atmosphere of an AGB star. The K-band observations are sensitive to water and carbon-monoxyde vapors. Unfortunately, we were only able to observe S Ser in this wavelength range.
Results. We find a ratio of 2.2 between the molecular envelope radius and the photospheric size, which is consistent with previous results. The N-band observations are mostly sensitive to vapors of SiO and water and to dust (alumina and silicate). The silicate dust shell is fully resolved, and no precise parameters can be deduced from the N-band observations other than a spatial extension of at least 12–16 R⋆ for our sample. The sizes found for the SiO region are consistent with the radii of the SiO maser rings provided by the VLBA observations. The sizes of the alumina and water vapor regions are systematically found to be larger. There is clear evidence that SiO is absent from regions farther from the star where silicate dust condenses.
Conclusions. These observations support a possible scenario in which SiO is adsorbed by species such as corundum. An alternative explanation could be that SiO has chemically disappeared at this range of distances.
Key words: stars: atmospheres / stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: mass-loss / masers / techniques: interferometric / infrared: stars
© ESO, 2015