SiO masers from AGB stars in the vibrationally excited v=1, v=2, and v=3 states
Journal article, 2014
Context. The v = 1 and v = 2 J = 1-0 (43 GHz), and v = 1 J = 2-1 (86 GHz) SiO masers are intense in asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars and have been mapped using very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) showing ring-like distributions. Those of the v = 1, v = 2 J = 1-0 masers are similar, but the spots are rarely coincident, while the v = 1 J = 2-1 maser arises from a well-separated region farther out. These relative locations can be explained by models tools that include the overlap of two IR lines of SiO and H2O. The v = 3 J = 1-0 line is not directly affected by any line overlap and its spot structure and position, relative to the other lines, is a good test to the standard pumping models. Aims. The aim of this project are to gain insight into the properties and the general theoretical considerations of the different SiO masers that can help to understand them. Methods. We present single-dish and simultaneous VLBI observations of the v = 1, v = 2, and v = 3 J = 1-0 maser transitions of (SiO)-Si-28 in several AGB stars. The results are compared to the predictions of radiative models of SiO masers that both include and not include the effect of IR line overlap. Results. The spatial distribution of the SiO maser emission in the v = 3 J = 1-0 transition from AGB stars is systematically composed of a series of spots that occupy a ring-like structure (as often found in SiO masers). The overall ring structure is extremely similar to that found in the other 43 GHz transitions and is very different from the structure of the v = 1 J = 2-1 maser. The positions of the individual spots of the different 43 GHz lines are, however, very rarely coincident, which in general is separated by about 0.3 AU (between 1 and 5 mas). These results are very difficult to reconcile with standard pumping models, which predict that the masers of rotational transitions within a given vibrational state require very similar excitation conditions (since the levels are placed practically at the same energy from the ground), while the transitions of different vibrational states (which are separated by an energy of 1800 K) should appear in different positions. However, models including line overlap tend to predict v = 1, v = 2, v = 3 J = 1-0 population inversion to occur under very similar conditions, while the requirements for v = 1 J = 2-1 appear clearly different, and are compatible with the observational results.
stars: AGB and post-AGB
radio lines: stars