ALMA Observations of Anisotropic Dust Mass Loss around VY CMa
Paper in proceedings, 2015
We present high resolution ALMA Science Verification data of the continuum emission around the highly evolved oxygen-rich red supergiant VY CMa. These data enable us to study the dust in its inner circumstellar environment at a spatial resolution of 129 mas at 321 GHz and 59 mas at 658 GHz, thus allowing us to trace dust on spatial scales down to 11 R-star (71 AU). Two prominent dust components are detected and resolved. We find that at least 17% of the dust mass around VY CMa is located in clumps ejected within a more quiescent roughly spherical stellar wind, with a quiescent dust mass loss rate of 5 x 10(-6) M-circle dot yr(-1). The anisotropic morphology of the dust indicates a continuous, directed mass loss over a few decades, suggesting that this mass loss cannot be driven by large convection cells alone.