Magnetic fields around evolved stars
Conference contribution, 2014
A number of mechanisms, such as magnetic fields, (binary) companions and circumstellar disks have been suggested to be the cause of non-spherical PNe and in particular collimated outflows. This work investigates one of these mechanisms: the magnetic fields. While MHD simulations show that the fields can indeed be important, few observations of magnetic fields have been done so far. We used the VLBA to observe five evolved stars, with the goal of detecting the magnetic field by means of water maser polarization. The sample consists in four AGB stars (IK Tau, RT Vir, IRC+60370 and AP Lyn) and one pPN (OH231.8+4.2). In four of the five sources, several strong maser features were detected allowing us to measure the linear and/or circular polarization. Based on the circular polarization detections, we infer the strength of the component of the field along the line of sight to be between ~30 mG and ~330 mG in the water maser regions of these four sources. When extrapolated to the surface of the stars, the magnetic field strength would be between a few hundred mG and a few Gauss when assuming a toroidal field geometry and higher when assuming more complex magnetic fields. We conclude that the magnetic energy we derived in the water maser regions is higher than the thermal and kinetic energy, leading to the conclusion that, indeed, magnetic fields probably play an important role in shaping Planetary Nebulae.
stars: planetary nebulae
planetary nebulae: general