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Published April 2015 | Published
Journal Article Open

High-resolution IR and radio observations of AGB stars


Aims. We present the results of observations with interferometers of a sample of pulsating asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in the infrared and at radio wavelengths. The goal of these observations is to explore the extended stellar atmospheres and to establish links between the spatial scales of molecular envelopes and of the dust shell. This is the key to better understand the process of dust formation and therefore of mass loss. Methods. We used the ESO VLTI/MIDI interferometer in the N band, the Keck Interferometer in the K band, and NRAO VLBA observations of SiO masers at 7 mm wavelength of a sample of AGB stars: U Ari, W Cnc, RX Tau, RT Tau, RT Aql, S Ser, and V Mon. The various instruments probe different altitudes of the atmosphere of the AGB stars. They are sensitive to regions below the silicate dust condensation distance and provide the opportunity of finding hints about how dust and its precursors form in the extended atmosphere of an AGB star. The K-band observations are sensitive to water and carbon-monoxyde vapors. Unfortunately, we were only able to observe S Ser in this wavelength range. Results. We find a ratio of 2.2 between the molecular envelope radius and the photospheric size, which is consistent with previous results. The N-band observations are mostly sensitive to vapors of SiO and water and to dust (alumina and silicate). The silicate dust shell is fully resolved, and no precise parameters can be deduced from the N-band observations other than a spatial extension of at least 12–16 R⋆ for our sample. The sizes found for the SiO region are consistent with the radii of the SiO maser rings provided by the VLBA observations. The sizes of the alumina and water vapor regions are systematically found to be larger. There is clear evidence that SiO is absent from regions farther from the star where silicate dust condenses. Conclusions. These observations support a possible scenario in which SiO is adsorbed by species such as corundum. An alternative explanation could be that SiO has chemically disappeared at this range of distances.

Additional Information

© 2015 ESO. Article published by EDP Sciences. Received 4 October 2014; Accepted 20 January 2015; Published online 01 April 2015. The authors are grateful to Omar Delaa for his participation in the reduction of the data. This research has made use of the SIMBAD and AFOEV databases, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is operated by Associated Universities Inc., under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023