The detached dust shells around the carbon AGB stars R Sculptoris and V644 Scorpii
Journal article, 2014
Context. The morphology of the circumstellar envelopes (CSE) around asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars gives information on the mass-loss process from the star, its evolution and wind, and on the effect of binary interaction. However, determining the distribution of dust in the circumstellar envelopes is difficult. Observations of polarised, dust-scattered stellar light in the optical have produced images with high-spatial resolution of the envelopes around evolved stars. For sources with detached shells in particular, this method has proven extremely successful. Detached shells are believed to be created during a thermal pulse, and studying them can constrain the time scales and physical properties of one of the main drivers of late stellar evolution. Aims. We aim at determining the morphology of the detached shells around the carbon AGB stars R Scl and V644 Sco. In particular, we attempt to constrain the radii and widths of the detached dust shells around the stars and compare them to observations of the detached gas shells. Methods. We observed the polarised, dust-scattered stellar light around the carbon AGB stars R Scl and V644 Sco using the PolCor instrument mounted on the ESO 3.6 m telescope. Observations were done with a coronographic mask to block out the direct stellar light. The polarised images clearly show the detached shells around R Scl and V644 Sco. Using a dust radiative transfer code to model the dust-scattered polarised light, we constrained the radii and widths of the shells. Results. We determine radii of 19 ''.5 and 9 ''.4 for the detached dust shells around R Scl and V644 Sco, respectively. Both shells have an overall spherical symmetry and widths of approximate to 2 ''. For R Scl, we can compare the observed dust emission directly with high spatialresolution maps of CO(3-2) emission from the shell observed with ALMA. We find that the dust and gas coincide almost exactly, indicating a common evolution. The data presented here for R Scl are the most detailed observations of the entire dusty detached shell to date. For V644 Sco, these are the first direct measurements of the detached shell. Also here we find that the dust most likely coincides with the gas shell. Conclusions. The observations are consistent with a scenario where the detached shells are created during a thermal pulse. The determined radii and widths will constrain hydrodynamical models describing the pre-pulse mass loss, the thermal pulse, and postpulse evolution of the star.
stars: AGB and post-AGB