Constraining the Post-Thermal Pulse Mass-Loss History of R Scl with SOFIA/FORCAST

Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - 9:00am PST
Matt Hankins
Cornell University
Event Type: 

R Sculptoris (R Scl) is a nearby (~270 pc) carbon star with a massive circumstellar shell which is thought to have been produced by a thermal pulse event ∼2000 years ago. We observed R Scl with the Faint Object InfraRed CAMera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) at 19.7, 25.2, 31.5, 34.8, and 37.1 μm to study its circumstellar dust emission. Maps of the infrared emission were used to examine the morphology and temperature structure of the spatially extended dust emission. We used the radiative transfer code DUSTY to fit the radial density profile of the circumstellar material, and find that a geometrically thin dust shell cannot reproduce the observed emission. Instead, a second dust component is needed to model the emission. This component, which lies interior to the dust shell, traces the post-thermal pulse mass loss of R Scl and is indicative of a slow decline in the star’s mass loss over thousands of years. This result is at odds with ‘classical’ thermal pulse models but is consistent with earlier observations of molecular gas in R Scl’s circumstellar environment. We discuss this result and the prospect of future observations of other post-thermal pulse AGB stars.

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