Modelling polarized light from dust shells surrounding asymptotic giant branch stars
1 Division of Astronomy and Space Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University, Box 516, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
2 Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia Galileo Galilei, Università di Padova, Vicolo dell’Osservatorio 3, 35122 Padova, Italy
Received: 25 January 2017
Accepted: 12 May 2017
Context. Winds of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars are commonly assumed to be driven by radiative acceleration of dust grains. For M-type AGB stars, the nature of the wind-driving dust species has been a matter of intense debate. A proposed source of the radiation pressure triggering the outflows is photon scattering on Fe-free silicate grains. This wind-driving mechanism requires grain radii of about 0.1–1 micron in order to make the dust particles efficient at scattering radiation around the stellar flux maximum. Grain size is therefore an important parameter for understanding the physics behind the winds of M-type AGB stars.
Aims. We seek to investigate the diagnostic potential of scattered polarized light for determining dust grain sizes.
Methods. We have developed a new tool for computing synthetic images of scattered light in dust and gas shells around AGB stars, which can be applied to detailed models of dynamical atmospheres and dust-driven winds.
Results. We present maps of polarized light using dynamical models computed with the DARWIN code. The synthetic images clearly show that the intensity of the polarized light, the position of the inner edge of the dust shell, and the size of the dust grains near the inner edge are all changing with the luminosity phase. Non-spherical structures in the dust shells can also have an impact on the polarized light. We simulate this effect by combining different pulsation phases into a single 3D structure before computing synthetic images. An asymmetry of the circumstellar envelope can create a net polarization, which can be used as diagnostics for the grain size. The ratio between the size of the scattering particles and the observed wavelength determines at what wavelengths net polarization switches direction. If observed, this can be used to constrain average particle sizes.
Key words: techniques: polarimetric / stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: late-type / stars: mass-loss / stars: winds, outflows / circumstellar matter
© ESO, 2017