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A&A Supplement series, Vol. 129, April II 1998, 363-398

Received July 25; accepted October 13, 1997

Circumstellar shells and mass loss rates: Clues to the evolution of S starsgif

A. Jorissentex2html_wrap3595,gif - G.R. Knapptex2html_wrap3597

Send offprint request: A. Jorissen (at the address in Belgium).

tex2html_wrap3599  Institut d'Astronomie et d'Astrophysique, Université Libre de Bruxelles, CP. 226, boulevard du Triomphe, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
tex2html_wrap3601  Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, U.S.A.


It is the purpose of this paper to rediscuss the circumstellar properties of S stars and to put these properties in perspective with our current understanding of the evolutionary status of S stars, in particular the intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy. This dichotomy states that only Tc-rich ("intrinsic'') S stars are genuine thermally-pulsing asymptotic giant branch stars, possibly involved in the M-S-C evolutionary sequence. Tc-poor S stars are referred to as "extrinsic'' S stars, because they are the cooler analogs of barium stars, and like them, owe their chemical peculiarities to mass transfer across their binary system.

Accordingly, an extensive data set probing the circumstellar environment of S stars (IRAS flux densities, maser emission, CO rotational lines) has been collected and critically evaluated. This data set combines new observations (9 stars have been observed in the CO J=2-1 line and 3 in the CO J=3-2 line, with four new detections) with existing material (all CO and maser observations of S stars published in the literature). The IRAS flux densities of S stars have been re-evaluated by co-adding the individual scans, in order to better handle the intrinsic variability of these stars in the IRAS bands, and possible contamination by Galactic cirrus.

In the (K - [12], [25] - [60]) color-color diagram, S stars segregate into five distinct regions according to their Tc content and ZrO/TiO, C/O and IR spectral indices. Stars with photospheric colors (populating "Region A'') may be identified with extrinsic S stars. For the other regions characterized by different excess levels in the 12, 25 and 60 tex2html_wrap_inline3543m bands, several diagnostics (like the IRAS spectral class, maser emission, and shape of CO rotational lines) have been collected to infer the physical properties of the dust shell. A simple radiative-transfer code has also been used to infer the chemical nature (carbonaceous or silicate) of the dust grains from the observed IR colors. S stars with large K - [12] excesses and moderate [25] - [60] excesses (populating Regions B and C) exhibit the signatures of oxygen-rich shells (9.7 tex2html_wrap_inline3543m silicate emission and SiO maser emission). The situation is less clear for S stars with small K - [12] and moderate [25]-[60] indices (populating Regions D and E). Their IR colors are consistent with carbonaceous grains (as is their featureless IRAS spectrum, and absence of silicate or SiO maser emission), but these features may equally well be explained by a detached shell. For many of these stars with a large 60 tex2html_wrap_inline3543m excess, the shell is indeed resolved by the IRAS beam at 60 tex2html_wrap_inline3543m. The prototypical SC star FU Mon is among these. Since SC stars are believed to be in a very short-lived evolutionary phase where C/O = 1 within 1%, FU Mon may be a good candidate for the "interrupted mass-loss'' scenario advocated by Willems & de Jong (1988). The CO line profile of FU Mon is also peculiar in being quite narrow (tex2html_wrap_inline3559  km stex2html_wrap_inline3561), suggesting that the mass loss has just resumed in this star.

Mass loss rates or upper limits have been derived for all S stars observed in the CO rotational lines, and range from tex2html_wrap_inline3563 tex2html_wrap_inline3565 y-1 for extrinsic S stars to tex2html_wrap_inline3569 tex2html_wrap_inline3565 y-1 (the Mira S star W Aql). These mass-loss rates correlate well with the K - [12] color index, which probes the dust loss rate, provided that tex2html_wrap_inline3577 tex2html_wrap_inline3565 y-1. Small mass-loss rates are found for extrinsic S stars, consistent with their not being so evolved (RGB or Early-AGB) as the Tc-rich S stars. This result does not support the claim often made in relation with symbiotic stars that binarity strongly enhances the mass-loss rate.

keywords: stars: mass-loss -- stars: AGB -- stars: late-type - infrared: stars -- radio lines: stars

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