AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 51. Optical Interferometry
Topical Session Oral, Wednesday, June 6, 2001, 8:30am-12:30pm, 2:30-6:00pm, C106

[Previous] | [Session 51] | [Next]

[51.09] Observations of Circumstellar Material Around Evolved Stars with the ISI

W. Danchi (GSFC), C. Townes (UC Berkeley)

The U.C. Berkeley Infrared Spatial Interferometer (ISI) is a stellar interferometer operating in the 9-12 micron region and has been in operation from 1988 until the present. It utilizes heterodyne detection using CO2 laser local oscillators and currently includes two 1.65 m movable telescopes mounted in semi-trailers and baselines up to about 65 m in length. A third telescope is being integrated with the other two and within the next year will operate as an imaging interferometer providing data with three simultaneous baselines and a closure phase, and baselines up to about 75 m.

During the past twelve years the ISI has been used extensively for studies of circumstellar material around evolved stars. Multi-epoch observations of a sample of prototypical sources have elucidated the location and time scales for dust formation around these stars. These time scales can be as short as ~10 years for Mira stars and as long as ~100 years for supergiants. For stars like Mira itself there is evidence for departure from spherical symmetry and episodes of dust formation and destruction. For some stars motion of dust has been observed -- IK Tau is one example, and NML Cyg is another. The molecules Silane and Ammonia were observed for the extreme carbon star IRC +10216 and the supergiant VY CMa pinpointing their location relative to the inner radius of the dust shell. Somehwat surprisingly, these molecules were found to form many stellar radii away from the inner radius of the dust shell, implying that they form by interactions with the surfaces of dust grains. Last year observations with the longest baselines lead to new precision diameters of o Ceti and \alpha Orionis, and are continuing on a somewhat larger set of Mira variable and supergiant stars.

[Previous] | [Session 51] | [Next]