Distinguishing between symbiotic stars and planetary nebulae
Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Bartycka 18, 00-716 Warsaw, Poland
Received: 3 July 2017
Accepted: 22 August 2017
Context. The number of known symbiotic stars (SySt) is still significantly lower than their predicted population. One of the main problems in finding the total population of SySt is the fact that their spectrum can be confused with other objects, such as planetary nebulae (PNe) or dense H ii regions. This problem is reinforced by the fact that in a significant fraction of established SySt the emission lines used to distinguish them from other objects are not present.
Aims. We aim at finding new diagnostic diagrams that could help separate SySt from PNe. Additionally, we examine a known sample of extragalactic PNe for candidate SySt.
Methods. We employed emission line fluxes of known SySt and PNe from the literature.
Results. We found that among the forbidden lines in the optical region of spectrum, only the [O iii] and [N ii] lines can be used as a tool for distinguishing between SySt and PNe, which is consistent with the fact that they have the highest critical densities. The most useful diagnostic that we propose is based on He i lines, which are more common and stronger in SySt than forbidden lines. All these useful diagnostic diagrams are electron density indicators that better distinguish PNe and ionized symbiotic nebulae. Moreover, we found six new candidate SySt in the Large Magellanic Cloud and one in M 81. If confirmed, the candidate in M 81 would be the farthest known SySt thus far.
Key words: planetary nebulae: general / binaries: general / galaxies: individual: LMC, SMC, M 33, M 81, NGC 300 / binaries: symbiotic / binaries: symbiotic
© ESO, 2017