Rotten Egg nebula: the magnetic field of a binary evolved star
Journal article, 2012
Context. Most of the planetary nebulae (PNe) observed are not spherical. The loss of spherical symmetry occurs somewhere between the asymptotic giant branch (AGB) phase and the PNe phase. The cause of this change of morphology is not yet well understood, but magnetic fields are one of the possible agents. The origin of the magnetic field remains to be determined, and potentially requires the presence of a massive companion to the AGB star. Therefore, further detections of the magnetic field around evolved stars, and in particular those thought to be part of a binary system, are crucial to improve our understanding of the origin and role of magnetism during the late stages of stellar evolution. One such binary is the pre-PN OH231.8+4.2, around which a magnetic field has previously been detected in the OH maser region of the outer circumstellar envelope. Aims. We aim to detect and infer the properties of the magnetic field of the pre-PN OH231.8+4.2 in the H2O maser region that probes the region close to the central star. This source is a confirmed binary with collimated outflows and an envelope containing several maser species. Methods. In this work we observed the 6(1,6)-5(2,3) H2O maser rotational transition to determine its linear and circular polarization. As a result of Zeeman splitting, the properties of the magnetic field can be derived from maser polarization analysis. The H2O maser emissions of OH231.8+4.2 are located within the inner regions of the source (at a few tens of AU). Results. We detected 30 H2O maser features around OH231.8+4.2. The masers occur in two distinct regions that are moving apart with a velocity on the sky of 2.3 mas/year. Taking into account the inclination angle of the source with the line of sight, this corresponds to an average separation velocity of 21 km s(-1). Based on the velocity gradient of the maser emission, the masers appear to be dragged along the direction of the nebula jet. Linear polarization is present in three of the features, and circular polarization is detected in the two brightest features. The circular polarization results imply a magnetic field strength of vertical bar B-parallel to vertical bar similar to 45 mG. Conclusions. We confirm the presence of a magnetic field around OH231.8+4.2, and report the first measurements of its strength within a few tens of AU of the stellar pair. Assuming a toroidal magnetic field, this imples B similar to 2.5 G on the stellar surface. The morphology of the field is not yet determined, but the high scatter found in the directions of the linear polarization vectors could indicate that the masers occur near the tangent points of a toroidal field.
stars: AGB and post-AGB