Circumstellar water vapour in M-type AGB stars: radiative transfer models, abundances, and predictions for HIFI
2008 (English)In: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 479, no 1, 779-791 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Context: Surprisingly high amounts of H2O have recently been reported in the circumstellar envelope around the M-type asymptotic giant branch star W Hya. This has lead to the speculation that evaporation of icy cometary or planetary bodies might be an effective ongoing mechanism in such systems. However, substantial uncertainties remain, as the required radiative transfer modelling is difficult due to high optical depths, sub-thermal excitation and the sensitivity to the combined radiation field from the central star and dust grains. Aims: By performing a detailed radiative transfer analysis, we determine fractional abundances of circumstellar H2O in the envelopes around six M-type asymptotic giant branch stars. The models are also used to predict H2O spectral line emission for the upcoming Herschel/HIFI mission. Methods: We use Infrared Space Observatory Long Wavelength Spectrometer spectra to constrain the circumstellar fractional abundance distribution of ortho-H2O, using a non-local thermal equilibrium, and non-local, radiative transfer code based on the accelerated lambda iteration formalism. The mass-loss rates and kinetic temperature structures for the sample stars are determined through radiative transfer modelling of CO line emission based on the Monte-Carlo method. The density and temperature profiles of the circumstellar dust grains are determined through spectral energy distribution modelling using the publicly available code Dusty. Results: The determined ortho-H2O abundances lie between 2×10-4 and 1.5×10-3 relative to H2, with the exception of WX Psc, which has a much lower estimated ortho-H2O abundance of only 2×10-6, possibly indicating H2O adsorption onto dust grains or recent mass-loss-rate modulations. The estimated abundances are uncertain by, at best, a factor of a few. Conclusions: The high water abundance found for the majority of the sources suggests that either the “normal” chemical processes are very effective in producing H2O, or else non-local thermal equilibrium atmospheric chemistry, grain surface reactions, or a release of H2O (e.g. from icy bodies like Kuiper belt objects) play a role. However, more detailed information on the physical structure and the velocity field of the region where the water vapour lines are formed is required to improve abundance estimates. We provide predictions for ortho-H2O lines in the spectral window of Herschel/HIFI. These spectrally resolved lines cover a wide range of excitation conditions and will provide valuable additional information on the physical and chemical properties of the inner stellar wind where H2O is abundant.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
EDP Sciences , 2008. Vol. 479, no 1, 779-791 p.
Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-17161DOI: doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078680OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-17161DiVA: diva2:183681