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Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Jahrgang 2018


Titel The Physics and Chemistry of Oxygen-rich Circumstellar Envelopes as Traced by Simple Molecules
Autor Ka Tat Wong
Publikationsform Dissertation
Abstract The physics and chemistry of the circumstellar envelopes (CSEs) of evolved stars are not fully understood despite decades of research. This thesis addresses two issues in the study of the CSEs of oxygen-rich (O-rich) evolved stars. In the first project, the ammonia (NH3) chemistry of O-rich stars is investigated with multi-wavelength observations; in the second project, the extended atmosphere and inner wind of the archetypal asymptotic giant branch (AGB) star omi Ceti (Mira) is studied with high-angular resolution observations.
One of the long-standing mysteries in circumstellar chemistry is the perplexing overabundance of the NH3 molecule. NH3 in O-rich evolved stars has been found in much higher abundance, by several orders of magnitude, than that expected in equilibrium chemistry. Several mechanisms have been suggested in the literature to explain this high NH3 abundance, including shocks in the inner wind, photodissociation of nitrogen by interstellar ultraviolet radiation, and nitrogen enrichment in stellar nucleosynthesis; however, none of these suggestions can fully explain the abundances of NH3 and various other molecular species in the CSEs of O-rich stars.
In order to investigate the distribution of NH3 in O-rich CSEs, observations of the spectral lines of NH3 from a diverse sample of evolved stars and in different wavelength regimes are necessary. In this thesis, the NH3 line emission and absorption from four O-rich stars are studied. These targets include the AGB star IK Tauri, the pre-planetary nebula OH 231.8+4.2, the red supergiant VY Canis Majoris, and the yellow hypergiant IRC +10420. The amount of NH3 observational data has increased drastically thanks to the recent advancement of instrumentation. Observations of NH3 rotational line emission at submillimetre/far-infrared wavelengths were possible with the Herschel Space Observatory (2009-2013). The new wideband correlator in the upgraded Karl G. Janksy Very Large Array (VLA) provided data of multiple radio inversion lines of NH3. Furthermore, mid-infrared absorption of NH3 has been observed by the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) for IK Tau and VY CMa.
Full radiative transfer modelling including mid-infrared pumping to the first vibrationally excited state (v2=1) has been carried out to reproduce the observed emission and absorption spectra and to retrieve the NH3 abundances in the targets. It is found that the NH3 emission in the CSEs of the targets arises from localised spatial-kinematic structures in which the gas density may be higher than in the surrounding gas. Circumstellar shocks may contribute to, but cannot fully account for, the formation of the molecule.
Besides circumstellar chemistry, our understanding of the dust formation and wind-driving mechanisms of oxygen-rich evolved stars is still incomplete. One of the obstacles in the past was the difficulty in imaging the dust condensation and wind acceleration zones due to the lack of high-angular resolution instruments. Thanks to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), which has the longest baseline of about 15 km, we are now able to produce high-fidelity images at unprecedented angular resolutions of tens of milliarcseconds (mas) in the (sub)millimetre regime. Such angular resolutions, which are comparable to the stellar radii of nearby objects, are necessary to understand the gas dynamics and chemical evolution in the pulsating atmosphere and dust formation zone of nearby AGB stars.
The eponymous Mira-type long-period variable, omi Cet, was observed as a Science Verification target during the first ALMA Long Baseline Campaign that took place in 2014. The observations produced images of the stellar radio photosphere and the molecular transitions of SiO and H2O at an angular resolution of about 30 mas near 220 GHz (1.3 mm). The millimetre stellar disc of omi Cet was resolved and modelled. More importantly, this is the first time that molecular line absorption against the background stellar continuum has been clearly imaged in the (sub)millimetre wavelength regime.
Through radiative transfer modelling of the SiO and H2O line absorption and emission, it is found that during the ALMA observations, the extended atmosphere of the star exhibited infall motions in general with a shock front of velocity </~12 km/s-1 beyond the radio photosphere of omi Cet. Gas-phase SiO starts to deplete beyond 4 stellar radii at the temperature of </~600 K. Comparisons between the physical structures of the inner wind derived from the imaging and those predicted from hydrodynamical calculations found that theoretical models are able to reproduce the observations in great detail. Future interferometric observations will reveal more details of the dust condensation processes and wind acceleration, and hence lead to a better understanding of the late stages of stellar evolution.
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© Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn | Veröffentlicht: 17.04.2018