Aims: Our goal is to study the different morphologies associated to the interaction of the stellar winds of AGB stars and red supergiants with the interstellar medium (ISM) to follow the fate of the circumstellar matter injected into the interstellar medium.
Methods: Far-infrared Herschel/PACS images at 70 and 160 μm of a sample of 78 Galactic evolved stars are used to study the (dust) emission structures developing out of stellar wind-ISM interaction. In addition, two-fluid hydrodynamical simulations of the coupled gas and dust in wind-ISM interactions are used for comparison with the observations.
Results: Four distinct classes of wind-ISM interaction (i.e. "fermata", "eyes", "irregular", and "rings") are identified, and basic parameters affecting the morphology are discussed. We detect bow shocks for ~40% of the sample and detached rings for ~20%. The total dust and gas mass inferred from the observed infrared emission is similar to the stellar mass loss over a period of a few thousand years, while in most cases it is less than the total ISM mass potentially swept-up by the wind-ISM interaction. De-projected stand-off distances (R0) - defined as the distance between the central star and the nearest point of the interaction region - of the detected bow shocks ("fermata" and "eyes") are derived from the PACS images and compared to previous results, model predictions, and the simulations. All observed bow shocks have stand-off distances smaller than 1 pc. Observed and theoretical stand-off distances are used together to independently derive the local ISM density.
Conclusions: Both theoretical (analytical) models and hydrodynamical simulations give stand-off distances for adopted stellar properties that are in good agreement with the measured de-projected stand-off distance of wind-ISM bow shocks. The possible detection of a bow shock - for the distance-limited sample - appears to be governed by its physical size as set roughly by the stand-off distance. In particular the star's peculiar space velocity and the density of the ISM appear decisive in detecting emission from bow shocks or detached rings. In most cases the derived ISM densities concur with those typical of the warm neutral and ionised gas in the Galaxy, though some cases point towards the presence of cold diffuse clouds. Tentatively, the "eyes" class objects are associated to (visual) binaries, while the "rings" generally do not appear to occur for M-type stars, only for C or S-type objects that have experienced a thermal pulse.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- January 2012
- stars: AGB and post-AGB;
- circumstellar matter;
- infrared: ISM;
- stars: mass-loss;
- stars: winds;
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- 29 pages, 15 figures. Accepted for publication in A&