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A turbulent wake as a tracer of 30,000 years of Mira’s mass loss history

Martin, D. Christopher and Seibert, Mark and Neill, James D. and Schiminovich, David and Forster, Karl and Rich, R. Michael and Welsh, Barry Y. and Madore, Barry F. and Wheatley, Jonathan M. and Morrissey, Patrick and Barlow, Tom A. (2007) A turbulent wake as a tracer of 30,000 years of Mira’s mass loss history. Nature, 448 (7155). pp. 780-783. ISSN 0028-0836.

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Mira is one of the first variable stars ever discovered and it is the prototype (and also the nearest example) of a class of low-to-intermediate-mass stars in the late stages of stellar evolution. These stars are relatively common and they return a large fraction of their original mass to the interstellar medium (ISM) (ref. 2) through a processed, dusty, molecular wind. Thus stars in Mira's stage of evolution have a direct impact on subsequent star and planet formation in their host galaxy. Previously, the only direct observation of the interaction between Mira-type stellar winds and the ISM was in the infrared. Here we report the discovery of an ultraviolet-emitting bow shock and turbulent wake extending over 2 degrees on the sky, arising from Mira's large space velocity and the interaction between its wind and the ISM. The wake is visible only in the far ultraviolet and is consistent with an unusual emission mechanism whereby molecular hydrogen is excited by turbulent mixing of cool molecular gas and shock-heated gas. This wind wake is a tracer of the past 30,000 years of Mira's mass-loss history and provides an excellent laboratory for studying turbulent stellar wind–ISM interactions.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Information ReadCube access
Martin, D. Christopher0000-0002-8650-1644
Seibert, Mark0000-0002-1143-5515
Neill, James D.0000-0002-0466-1119
Forster, Karl0000-0001-5800-5531
Rich, R. Michael0000-0003-0427-8387
Madore, Barry F.0000-0002-1576-1676
Morrissey, Patrick0000-0001-8177-1023
Additional Information:© 2007 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 30 March; accepted 11 June 2007. We thank B. Cenko, S. Browne, S. Kulkarni and F. Harrison for assistance in obtaining optical data, and M. Shara and P. Szkody for comments. This work was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Group:Space Astrophysics Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Issue or Number:7155
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150318-084131649
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Official Citation:Martin, D. C., Seibert, M., Neill, J. D., Schiminovich, D., Forster, K., Rich, R. M., . . . Barlow, T. A. (2007). A turbulent wake as a tracer of 30,000[thinsp]years of Mira/'s mass loss history. [10.1038/nature06003]. Nature, 448(7155), 780-783.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:55875
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:18 Mar 2015 19:50
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 21:11

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