Charting circumstellar chemistry of carbon-rich asymptotic giant branch stars: I. ALMA 3mm spectral surveys

R. Unnikrishnan*, E. De Beck, L.-Å. Nyman, H. Olofsson, W. H. T. Vlemmings, D. Tafoya, M. Maercker, S. B. Charnley, M. A. Cordiner, I. de Gregorio, E. Humphreys, T. J. Millar, M. G. Rawlings

*Corresponding author for this work

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Context. Asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars are major contributors to the chemical enrichment of the interstellar medium through nucleosynthesis and extensive mass loss. Direct measures of both processes can be obtained by studying their circumstellar envelopes in molecular line emission. Most of our current knowledge of circumstellar chemistry, in particular in a C-rich environment, is based on observations of the carbon star IRC +10216.

Aims. We aim to obtain a more generalised understanding of the chemistry in C-rich AGB circumstellar envelopes by studying a sample of three carbon stars, IRAS 15194−5115, IRAS 15082−4808, and IRAS 07454−7112, and to observationally test the archetypal status often attributed to IRC +10216.

Methods. We performed spatially resolved, unbiased spectral surveys in ALMA Band 3 (85−116 GHz). We estimated the sizes of the molecular emitting regions using azimuthally averaged radial profiles of the line brightness distributions. We derived abundance estimates, using a population diagram analysis for molecules with multiple detected lines, and using single-line analytical calculations for the others.

Results. We identify a total of 132 rotational transitions from 49 molecular species. There are two main morphologies of the brightness distributions: centrally peaked (CS, SiO, SiS, HCN) and shell-like (CN, HNC, C2H, C3H, C4H, C3N, HC5N, c-C3H2). The brightness distributions of HC3N and SiC2 have both a central and a shell component. The qualitative behaviour of the brightness distributions of all detected molecules, in particular their relative locations with respect to the central star, is the same for all three stars, and consistent with those observed towards IRC +10216. Of the shell distributions, the cyanopolyynes peak at slightly smaller radii than the hydrocarbons, and CN and HNC show the most extended emission. The emitting regions for each species are the smallest for IRAS 07454−7112, consistent with this object having the lowest circumstellar density within our sample. We find that, within the uncertainties of the analysis, the three stars present similar abundances for most species, and also compared to IRC +10216. We find, tentatively, that SiO is more abundant in our three stars compared to IRC+10216, and that the hydrocarbons are under-abundant in IRAS 07454−7112 compared to the other stars and IRC +10216. Our estimated 12C/13C ratios match well the literature values for the three sources and our estimated silicon and sulphur isotopic ratios are very similar across the three stars and IRC +10216.

Conclusions. The observed circumstellar chemistry appears very similar across our sample and compared to that ofI RC+10216, both in terms of the relative location of the emitting regions and molecular abundances. This implies that, to a first approximation, the chemical models tailored to IRC +10216 are, at least, able to reproduce the observed chemistry in C-rich envelopes across roughly an order of magnitude in wind density.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA4
Number of pages114
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Early online date29 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


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