On the stability of bow shocks generated by red supergiants: the case of IRC -10414.
In this Letter, we explore the hypothesis that the smooth appearance of bow shocks around some red supergiants (RSGs) might be caused by the ionization of their winds by external sources of radiation. Our numerical simulations of the bow shock generated by IRC -10414 (the first-ever RSG with an optically detected bow shock) show that the ionization of the wind results in its acceleration by a factor of 2, which reduces the difference between the wind and space velocities of the star and makes the contact discontinuity of the bow shock stable for a range of stellar space velocities and mass-loss rates. Our best-fitting model reproduces the overall shape and surface brightness of the observed bow shock and suggests that the space velocity and mass-loss rate of IRC -10414 are ≈50 km s-1 and ≈10-6 M⊙ yr-1, respectively, and that the number density of the local interstellar medium is ≈3 cm-3. It also shows that the bow shock emission comes mainly from the shocked stellar wind. This naturally explains the enhanced nitrogen abundance in the line-emitting material, derived from the spectroscopy of the bow shock. We found that photoionized bow shocks are ≈15-50 times brighter in optical line emission than their neutral counterparts, from which we conclude that the bow shock of IRC -10414 must be photoionized.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Pub Date:
- March 2014
- shock waves;
- methods: numerical;
- circumstellar matter;
- stars: individual: IRC -10414;
- stars: massive;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 5 pages, 5 figures. Accepted for publication in MNRAS Letters