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Water content and wind acceleration in the envelope around the oxygen-rich AGB star IK Tauri as seen by Herschel/HIFI

Abstract : During their asymptotic giant branch evolution, low-mass stars lose a significant fraction of their mass through an intense wind, enriching the interstellar medium with products of nucleosynthesis. We observed the nearby oxygen-rich asymptotic giant branch star IK Tau using the high-resolution HIFI spectrometer onboard Herschel. We report on the first detection of H_216O and the rarer isotopologues H_217O and H_218O in both the ortho and para states. We deduce a total water content (relative to molecular hydrogen) of 6.6 × 10-5, and an ortho-to-para ratio of 3:1. These results are consistent with the formation of H2O in thermodynamical chemical equilibrium at photospheric temperatures, and does not require pulsationally induced non-equilibrium chemistry, vaporization of icy bodies or grain surface reactions. High-excitation lines of 12CO, 13CO, 28SiO, 29SiO, 30SiO, HCN, and SO have also been detected. From the observed line widths, the acceleration region in the inner wind zone can be characterized, and we show that the wind acceleration is slower than hitherto anticipated.

Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA.Appendices (pages 6 and 7) are only available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org

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L. Decin, K. Justtanont, E. de Beck, R. Lombaert, A. de Koter, et al.. Water content and wind acceleration in the envelope around the oxygen-rich AGB star IK Tauri as seen by Herschel/HIFI. Astronomy and Astrophysics, EDP Sciences, 2010, 521, ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201015069⟩. ⟨insu-03625639⟩

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