The distribution of H13CN in the circumstellar envelope around IRC+10216

Fredrik L. Schöier, David Fong, John H. Bieging, David J. Wilner, Ken Young, Todd R. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


H13CN J = 8 → 7 submillimeter line emission produced in the circumstellar envelope around the extreme carbon star IRC+10216 has been imaged at subarcsecond angular resolution using the SMA. Supplemented by a detailed excitation analysis, the average fractional abundance of H13CN in the inner wind (≲ 5 × 1015 cm) is estimated to be about 4 × 10-7, translating into a total HCN fractional abundance of 2 × 10-5 using the isotopic ratio 12C/13C = 50. Multitransitional single-dish observations further require the H 13CN fractional abundance to remain more or less constant in the envelope out to a radius of ≈4 × 1016 cm, where the HCN molecules are effectively destroyed, most probably, by photodissociation. The large amount of HCN present in the inner wind provides effective line cooling that can dominate over that generated from CO line emission. It is also shown that great care needs to be taken in the radiative transfer modeling where nonlocal, and non-LTE, effects are important and where the radiation field from thermal dust grains plays a major role in exciting the HCN molecules. The amount of HCN present in the circumstellar envelope around IRC+10216 is consistent with predicted photospheric values based on equilibrium chemical models and indicates that any nonequilibrium chemistry occurring in the extended pulsating atmosphere has no drastic net effect on the fractional abundance of HCN molecules that enters the outer envelope. It further suggests that few HCN molecules are incorporated into dust grains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-773
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 20 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • AGB
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Stars: AGB and post
  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: carbon
  • Stars: mass loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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