Magnetic fields around evolved stars: further observations of H2O maser polarization
Journal article, 2013
Context: A low-or intermediate-mass star is believed to maintain a spherical shape throughout the evolution from the main sequence to the asymptotic giant branch (AGB) phase. However, many post-AGB objects and planetary nebulae exhibit non-spherical symmetry. Several candidates have been suggested as factors that can play a role in this change of morphology, but the problem is still not well understood. Magnetic fields are one of these possible agents. Aims. We aim to detect the magnetic field and infer its properties around four AGB stars using H2O maser observations. The sample we observed consists of the following sources: the semi-regular variable RT Vir, and the Mira variables AP Lyn, IK Tau, and IRC+60370. Methods. We observed the 6(1,6)-5(2,3) H2O maser rotational transition in full-polarization mode to determine its linear and circular polarization. Based on the Zeeman effect, one can infer the properties of the magnetic field from the maser polarization analysis. Results. We detected a total of 238 maser features in three of the four observed sources. No masers were found toward AP Lyn. The observed masers are all located between 2.4 and 53.0 AU from the stars. Linear and circular polarization was found in 18 and 11 maser features, respectively. Conclusions. We more than doubled the number of AGB stars in which a magnetic field has been detected from H2O maser polarization. Our results confirm the presence of fields around IK Tau, RT Vir, and IRC+60370. The strength of the field along the line of sight is found to be between 47 and 331 mG in the H2O maser region. Extrapolating this result to the surface of the stars, assuming a toroidal field (proportional to r(-1)), we find magnetic fields of 0.3-6.9 G on the stellar surfaces. If, instead of a toroidal field, we assume a poloidal field (proportional to r(-2)), then the extrapolated magnetic field strength on the stellar surfaces are in the range between 2.2 and similar to 115 G. Finally, if a dipole field (proportional to r(-3)) is assumed, the field strength on the surface of the star is found to be between 15.8 and similar to 1945 G. The magnetic energy of our sources is higher than the thermal and kinetic energy in the H2O maser region of this class of objects. This leads us to conclude that, indeed, magnetic fields probably play an important role in shaping the outflows of evolved stars.
stars: AGB and post-AGB