Ionized Carbon around IRC+10216

William T. Reach, Maxime Ruaud, Helmut Wiesemeyer, Denise Riquelme, Le Ngoc Tram, Jose Cernicharo, Nathan Smith, Edward T. Chambers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Asymptotic giant branch stars create a rich inventory of molecules in their envelopes as they lose mass during later stages of their evolution. These molecules cannot survive the conditions in interstellar space, where they are exposed to ultraviolet photons of the interstellar radiation field. As a result, daughter molecules are the ones injected into space, and a halo of those molecules is predicted to exist around cool evolved stars. The most abundant molecule in the envelopes other than H2 is CO, which dissociates into C that is rapidly ionized into C+ in a halo around the star that is optically thin to the interstellar radiation field. We develop the specific predictions of the ionized carbon halo size and column density for the well-studied, nearby star IRC+10216. We compare those models to observations of the [C ii] 157.7 μm far-infrared fine structure line using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy and Herschel. The combination of bright emission toward the star and upper limits to extended [C ii] is inconsistent with any standard model. The presence of [C ii] toward the star requires some dissociation and ionization in the inner part of the outflow, possibly due to a hot companion star. The lack of extended [C ii] emission requires that daughter products from CO photodissociation in the outer envelope remain cold. The [C ii] profile toward the star is asymmetric, with the blueshifted absorption due to the cold outer envelope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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