AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 152. Variable Stars
Oral, Thursday, January 10, 2002, 2:00-3:30pm, Jefferson East

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[152.01] VY Canis Majoris: Observational Studies of the Outflow

M. Harwit (Cornell University)

A number of recent studies carried out with the Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, and the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite, SWAS, provide new information on the chemical composition of the dust and the geometry of the outflow.

With ISO, we have obtained a near-, mid-, and far-infrared spectrum of VY CMa that shows the strong preponderance of amorphous, as contrasted to crystalline, silicates. The sharp spectral slope in the near-infrared suggests the presence also of iron grains. While an excellent theoretical fit to the data is obtained, we emphasize that this is far from unique. A resolution of ambiguities will require a self-consistent model that considers not only radiative transfer, but also plausible elemental abundances, laboratory studies of chemical condensation sequences, and gas dynamics.

With SWAS we have obtained a high-resolution spectrum of the 557GHz ground state transition of ortho-water. The spectral profile enables us to rule out a number of outflow geometries proposed in the literature. With ISO we also obtained the intensities and velocity structure of several other spectral lines of water. Most of these lines must be optically thick but effectively thin, a circumstance that permits us to make use of recent gas-dynamic models to locate the radial position in the outflow where individual lines are emitted.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: harwit@verizon.net

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