Volume 613, May 2018
|Number of page(s)||12|
|Section||Interstellar and circumstellar matter|
|Published online||30 May 2018|
Widespread HCN maser emission in carbon-rich evolved stars★
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie,
Auf dem Hügel 69,
2 Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200D, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
3 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Accepted: 9 January 2018
Context. HCN is a major constituent of the circumstellar envelopes of carbon-rich evolved stars, and rotational lines from within its vibrationally excited states probe parts of these regions closest to the stellar surface. A number of such lines are known to show maser action. Historically, in one of them, the 177 GHz J = 2 → 1 line in the l-doubled bending mode has been found to show relatively strong maser action, with results only published for a single object, the archetypical high-mass loss asymptotic giant branch (AGB) star IRC+10216.
Aims. To examine how common 177 GHz HCN maser emission is, we conducted an exploratory survey for this line toward a select sample of carbon-rich asymptotic giant branch stars that are observable from the southern hemisphere.
Methods. We used the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment 12 meter submillimeter Telescope (APEX) equipped with a new receiver to simultaneously observe three J = 2 → 1 HCN rotational transitions, the (0, 11c, 0) and (0, 11d, 0) l-doublet components, and the line from the (0,0,0) ground state.
Results. The (0, 11c, 0) maser line is detected toward 11 of 13 observed sources, which all show emission in the (0,0,0) transition. In most of the sources, the peak intensity of the (0, 11c, 0) line rivals that of the (0,0,0) line; in two sources, it is even stronger. Except for the object with the highest mass-loss rate, IRC+10216, the (0, 11c, 0) line covers a smaller velocity range than the (0,0,0) line. The (0, 11d, 0) line, which is detected in four of the sources, is much weaker than the other two lines and covers a velocity range that is smaller yet, again except for IRC+10216. Compared to its first detection in 1989, the profile of the (0, 11c, 0) line observed toward IRC+10216 looks very different, and we also appear to see variability in the (0,0,0) line profile (at a much lower degree). Our limited information on temporal variabilitydisfavors a strong correlation of maser and stellar continuum flux.
Conclusions. Maser emission in the 177 GHz J = 2 → 1 (0, 11c, 0) line of HCN appears to be common in carbon-rich AGB stars. Like for other vibrationally excited HCN lines, our observations indicate that the origin of these lines is in the acceleration zone of the stellar outflow in which dust is forming. For all the stars toward which we detect the maser line, the number of photons available at 7 and 14 μm, corresponding to transitions to vibrationally excited states possibly involved in its pumping, is found to be far greater than that of the maser photons, which makes radiative pumping feasible. Other findings point to a collisional pumping scheme, however.
Key words: masers / stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: carbon / circumstellar matter
The reduced spectra (FITS files) are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (188.8.131.52) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/613/A49
© ESO 2018
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