Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie,
Auf dem Hügel 69,
2 Present address: Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique, 300 rue de la Piscine, 38406 Saint-Martin-d’Hères, France
3 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
4 Department of Astronomy, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA
5 Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238, USA
Accepted: 3 October 2017
Context. The circumstellar ammonia (NH3) chemistry in evolved stars is poorly understood. Previous observations and modelling showed that NH3 abundance in oxygen-rich stars is several orders of magnitude above that predicted by equilibrium chemistry.
Aims. We would like to characterise the spatial distribution and excitation of NH3 in the oxygen-rich circumstellar envelopes (CSEs) of four diverse targets: IK Tau, VY CMa, OH 231.8+4.2, and IRC +10420.
Methods. We observed NH3 emission from the ground state in the inversion transitions near 1.3 cm with the Very Large Array (VLA) and submillimetre rotational transitions with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far-Infrared (HIFI) aboard Herschel Space Observatory from all four targets. For IK Tau and VY CMa, we observed NH3 rovibrational absorption lines in the ν2 band near 10.5 μm with the Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph (TEXES) at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF). We also attempted to search for the rotational transition within the excited vibrational state (v2 = 1) near 2 mm with the IRAM 30m Telescope. Non-LTE radiative transfer modelling, including radiative pumping to the vibrational state, was carried out to derive the radial distribution of NH3 in the CSEs of these targets.
Results. We detected NH3 inversion and rotational emission in all four targets. IK Tau and VY CMa show blueshifted absorption in the rovibrational spectra. We did not detect vibrationally excited rotational transition from IK Tau. Spatially resolved VLA images of IK Tau and IRC +10420 show clumpy emission structures; unresolved images of VY CMa and OH 231.8+4.2 indicate that the spatial-kinematic distribution of NH3 is similar to that of assorted molecules, such as SO and SO2, that exhibit localised and clumpy emission. Our modelling shows that the NH3 abundance relative to molecular hydrogen is generally of the order of 10−7, which is a few times lower than previous estimates that were made without considering radiative pumping and is at least ten times higher than that in the carbon-rich CSE of IRC +10216. NH3 in OH 231.8+4.2 and IRC +10420 is found to emit in gas denser than the ambient medium. Incidentally, we also derived a new period of IK Tau from its V-band light curve.
Conclusions. NH3 is again detected in very high abundance in evolved stars, especially the oxygen-rich ones. Its emission mainly arises from localised spatial-kinematic structures that are probably denser than the ambient gas. Circumstellar shocks in the accelerated wind may contribute to the production of NH3. Future mid-infrared spectroscopy and radio imaging studies are necessary to constrain the radii and physical conditions of the formation regions of NH3.
Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB / circumstellar matter / supergiants / stars: winds, outflows / ISM: molecules / stars: mass-loss
Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA.
Based on observations carried out under project numbers 216-09, 212-10, and 052-15 with the IRAM 30m Telescope. IRAM is supported by INSU/CNRS (France), MPG (Germany) and IGN (Spain).
Based on observations with ISO, an ESA project with instruments funded by ESA Member States (especially the PI countries: France, Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom) and with the participation of ISAS and NASA.
All the spectra used in the article are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (126.96.36.199) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/612/A48
Member of the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne.
© ESO 2018