The wind of the M-type AGB star RT Virginis probed by VLTI/MIDI
Journal article, 2013
Aims. We study the circumstellar environment of the M-type AGB star RT Vir using mid-infrared high spatial resolution observations from the ESO-VLTI focal instrument MIDI. The aim of this study is to provide observational constraints on theoretical prediction that the winds of M-type AGB objects can be driven by photon scattering on iron-free silicate grains located in the close environment (about 2 to 3 stellar radii) of the star. Methods. We interpreted spectro-interferometric data, first using wavelength-dependent geometric models. We then used a self-consistent dynamic model atmosphere containing a time-dependent description of grain growth for pure forsterite dust particles to reproduce the photometric, spectrometric, and interferometric measurements of RT Vir. Since the hydrodynamic computation needs stellar parameters as input, a considerable effort was first made to determine these parameters. Results. MIDI differential phases reveal the presence of an asymmetry in the stellar vicinity. Results from the geometrical modeling give us clues to the presence of aluminum and silicate dust in the close circumstellar environment (<5 stellar radii). Comparison between spectro-interferometric data and a self-consistent dust-driven wind model reveals that silicate dust has to be present in the region between 2 to 3 stellar radii to reproduce the 59 and 63 m baseline visibility measurements around 9.8 mu m. This gives additional observational evidence in favor of winds driven by photon scattering on iron-free silicate grains located in the close vicinity of an M-type star. However, other sources of opacity are clearly missing to reproduce the 10-13 mu m visibility measurements for all baselines. Conclusions. This study is a first attempt to understand the wind mechanism of M-type AGB stars by comparing photometric, spectrometric, and interferometric measurements with state-of-the-art, self-consistent dust-driven wind models. The agreement of the dynamic model atmosphere with interferometric measurements in the 8-10 mu m spectral region gives additional observational evidence that the winds of M-type stars can be driven by photon scattering on iron-free silicate grains. Finally, a larger statistical study and progress in advanced self-consistent 3D modeling are still required to solve the remaining problems.