Circumstellar ion-molecule chemistry: Observations of HCO+ in the envelopes of O-rich stars and IRC+10216

R. L. Pulliam, J. L. Edwards, L. M. Ziurys

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26 Scopus citations


Millimeter-wave observations of HCO+ have been conducted toward oxygen-rich circumstellar envelopes, as well as IRC+10216, using the facilities of the Arizona Radio Observatory (ARO). The J= 1→ 0 and 2→ 1 transitions of this molecule were measured with the ARO 12m antenna, while the J= 3→ 2 and 4→ 3 lines were observed using the ARO Sub-Millimeter Telescope. HCO+ was detected toward the supergiant NMLCyg and the asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars IK Tau, TX Cam, and W Hya in at least two transitions. The J= 2→ 1 and 3→ 2 lines of this ion were also detected toward IRC+10216, confirming the identification of HCO+ in this object. The line profiles measured for HCO+ toward NMLCyg consist of red- and blueshifted components, suggesting a non-spherical shell. Based on a radiative transfer analysis, the abundances in the O-rich envelopes were f(HCO+/H2) ∼0.15-1.3× 10-7, with the AGB stars typically exhibiting the higher values. In IRC+10216, f(HCO +/H2) ∼4.1× 10-9, lower than the O-rich counterparts. The abundances of HCO+ were also found to peak at considerable distances from the star, indicative of an outer envelope molecule. Comparison with H2O and CO, the main precursor species, suggests that HCO+ is more prevalent in envelopes that have substantial water, but CO also plays a role in its formation. The abundance of HCO+ appears to increase inversely with mass-loss rate, provided the rate is >10-6 Myr-1. The common appearance of HCO+ in circumstellar gas indicates that, at some level, ion-molecule reactions influence the chemistry of evolved stellar envelopes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2011


  • ISM: molecules
  • astrochemistry
  • circumstellar matter
  • radio lines: stars
  • stars: individual (NML Cyg)
  • supergiants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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