The surprisingly carbon-rich environment of the S-type star W Aql
Journal article, 2020

Context. W Aql is an asymptotic giant branch (AGB) star with an atmospheric elemental abundance ratio C/O approximate to 0.98. It has previously been reported to have circumstellar molecular abundances intermediate between those of M-type and C-type AGB stars, which respectively have C/O < 1 and C/O > 1. This intermediate status is considered typical for S-type stars, although our understanding of the chemical content of their circumstellar envelopes is currently rather limited.Aims. We aim to assess the reported intermediate status of W Aql by analysing the line emission of molecules that have never before been observed towards this star.Methods. We performed observations in the frequency range 159-268 GHz with the SEPIA/B5 and PI230 instruments on the APEX telescope. We made abundance estimates through direct comparison to available spectra towards a number of well-studied AGB stars and based on rotational diagram analysis in the case of one molecule.Results. From a compilation of our abundance estimates and those found in the literature for two M-type (R Dor, IK Tau), two S-type (chi Cyg, W Aql), and two C-type stars (V Aql, IRC +10 216), we conclude that the circumstellar environment of W Aql appears considerably closer to that of a C-type AGB star than to that of an M-type AGB star. In particular, we detect emission from C2H, SiC2, SiN, and HC3N, molecules previously only detected towards the circumstellar environment of C-type stars. This conclusion, based on the chemistry of the gaseous component of the circumstellar environment, is further supported by reports in the literature on the presence of atmospheric molecular bands and spectral features of dust species which are typical for C-type AGB stars. Although our observations mainly trace species in the outer regions of the circumstellar environment, our conclusion matches closely that based on recent chemical equilibrium models for the inner wind of S-type stars: the atmospheric and circumstellar chemistry of S-type stars likely resembles that of C-type AGB stars much more closely than that of M-type AGB stars.Conclusions. Further observational investigation of the gaseous circumstellar chemistry of S-type stars is required to characterise its dependence on the atmospheric C/O. Non-equilibrium chemical models of the circumstellar environment of AGB stars need to address the particular class of S-type stars and the chemical variety that is induced by the range in atmospheric C/O.

stars: AGB and post-AGB

stars: mass-loss


stars: individual: W Aql


Elvire de Beck

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Astronomy and Plasmaphysics

Hans Olofsson

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Astronomy and Plasmaphysics

Astronomy and Astrophysics

0004-6361 (ISSN) 1432-0746 (eISSN)

Vol. 642 A20

Subject Categories

Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology


Probability Theory and Statistics



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