Exploring the origin of clumpy dust clouds around cool giants
A global 3D RHD model of a dust-forming M-type AGB star
Theoretical Astrophysics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University,
751 20 Uppsala,
Accepted: 31 January 2019
Context. Dust grains forming in the extended atmospheres of AGB stars are critical for the heavy mass loss of these cool luminous giants, as they provide radiative acceleration for the stellar winds. Characteristic mid-IR spectral features indicate that the grains consist mainly of silicates and corundum. The latter species seems to form in a narrow zone within about 2 stellar radii, preceding the condensation of silicate dust, which triggers the outflow. Recent high-angular-resolution observations show clumpy, variable dust clouds at these distances.
Aims. We explore possible causes for the formation of inhomogeneous dust layers, using 3D dynamical simulations.
Methods. We modeled the outer convective envelope and the dust-forming atmosphere of an M-type AGB star with the CO5BOLD radiation-hydrodynamics code. The simulations account for frequency-dependent gas opacities, and include a time-dependent description of grain growth and evaporation for corundum (Al2O3) and olivine-type silicates (Mg2SiO4).
Results. In the inner, gravitationally bound, and corundum-dominated layers of the circumstellar envelope, a patchy distribution of the dust emerges naturally, due to atmospheric shock waves that are generated by large-scale convective flows and pulsations. The formation of silicate dust at somewhat larger distances probably indicates the outer limit of the gravitationally bound layers. The current models do not describe wind acceleration, but the cloud formation mechanism should also work for stars with outflows. Timescales of atmospheric dynamics and grain growth are similar to observed values. In spherical averages of dust densities, more easily comparable to unresolved observations and 1D models, the variable 3D morphology manifests itself as cycle-to-cycle variations.
Conclusions. Grain growth in the wake of large-scale non-spherical shock waves, generated by convection and pulsations, is a likely mechanism for producing the observed clumpy dust clouds, and for explaining their physical and dynamical properties.
Key words: convection / shock waves / stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: atmospheres / stars: oscillations / circumstellar matter
© ESO 2019